Paul Tsongas

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Paul Tsongas
Senator Paul Tsongas.jpg
United States Senator
from Massachusetts
In office
January 3, 1979 January 2, 1985
Preceded by Edward Brooke
Succeeded by John Kerry
Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives
from Massachusetts's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1975 January 3, 1979
Preceded by Paul W. Cronin
Succeeded by James Shannon
Personal details
Paul Efthemios Tsongas

(1941-02-14)February 14, 1941
Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedJanuary 18, 1997(1997-01-18) (aged 55)
Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Niki Sauvage (m. 1969)
Education Dartmouth College (AB)
Yale University (JD)
Harvard University (MPP)

Paul Efthemios Tsongas ( /ˈsɒŋɡəs/ ; February 14, 1941 January 18, 1997) was an American politician. He represented Massachusetts in both houses of the United States Congress, holding office from 1975 to 1985. He won eight states as a candidate in the 1992 Democratic presidential primaries, losing the nomination to Bill Clinton.

Massachusetts State in the northeastern United States

Massachusetts, officially known as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south, New Hampshire and Vermont to the north, and New York to the west. The state is named after the Massachusett tribe, which once inhabited the east side of the area, and is one of the original thirteen states. The capital of Massachusetts is Boston, which is also the most populous city in New England. Over 80% of the population of Massachusetts lives in the Greater Boston metropolitan area, a region influential upon American history, academia, and industry. Originally dependent on agriculture, fishing and trade, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the 20th century, Massachusetts's economy shifted from manufacturing to services. Modern Massachusetts is a global leader in biotechnology, engineering, higher education, finance, and maritime trade.

United States Congress Legislature of the United States

The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, and consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Both senators and representatives are chosen through direct election, though vacancies in the Senate may be filled by a gubernatorial appointment. Congress has 535 voting members: 435 representatives and 100 senators. The House of Representatives has six non-voting members representing Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia in addition to its 435 voting members. Although they cannot vote in the full house, these members can address the house, sit and vote in congressional committees, and introduce legislation.

Democratic Party (United States) Major political party in the United States

The Democratic Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with its main rival, the Republican Party. Tracing its heritage back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison's Democratic-Republican Party, the modern-day Democratic Party was founded around 1828 by supporters of Andrew Jackson, making it the world's oldest active political party.


Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, Tsongas graduated from Dartmouth College, Yale Law School and the Kennedy School of Government. After working for the Peace Corps and as an aide to Congressman F. Bradford Morse, Tsongas successively won election as a city councilor and county commissioner. In 1974, he won election to the United States House of Representatives in Massachusetts's 5th congressional district, over the incumbent Paul W. Cronin. In Massachusetts's 1978 Senate election, he defeated incumbent Republican Senator Edward Brooke. In Congress, Tsongas established a reputation as a social liberal and fiscal conservative.

Lowell, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

Lowell is a city in the U.S. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Located in Middlesex County, Lowell was a county seat until Massachusetts disbanded county government in 1999. With an estimated population of 111,640 in 2018, it was the fourth-largest city in Massachusetts as of the last census and is estimated to be the fifth-largest as of 2018, and the second-largest in the Boston metropolitan statistical area. The city is also part of a smaller Massachusetts statistical area called Greater Lowell, as well as New England's Merrimack Valley region.

Dartmouth College private liberal arts university in Hanover, New Hampshire, United States

Dartmouth College is a private Ivy League research university in Hanover, New Hampshire, United States. Established in 1769 by Eleazar Wheelock, it is the ninth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. Although founded as a school to educate Native Americans in Christian theology and the English way of life, Dartmouth primarily trained Congregationalist ministers throughout its early history before it gradually secularized, emerging at the turn of the 20th century from relative obscurity into national prominence.

Yale Law School Law school of Yale University

Yale Law School is the law school of Yale University, located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Established in 1824, Yale Law offers the J.D., LL.M., J.S.D., M.S.L., and Ph.D. degrees in law.

Tsongas was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1983 and declined to seek re-election in 1984. He returned to politics after undergoing a successful bone marrow transplant. He experienced early success in the 1992 Democratic presidential primaries, winning the New Hampshire primary, but withdrew from the race in March 1992 and endorsed Clinton. An opponent of deficit spending, Tsongas co-founded the Concord Coalition. He died in 1997 of complications from pneumonia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma A type of cancer of lymph-nodes

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a group of blood cancers that includes all types of lymphoma except Hodgkin's lymphomas. Symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, weight loss and tiredness. Other symptoms may include bone pain, chest pain or itchiness. Some forms are slow-growing, while others are fast-growing.

The Concord Coalition is a political advocacy group in the United States, formed in 1992. A bipartisan organization, it was founded by U.S. Senator Warren Rudman, former Secretary of Commerce Peter George Peterson, and U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas. The Concord Coalition's advocacy centers on ending deficit spending and promoting a balanced budget in the U.S. federal government. The group's mission statement is to educate "the public about the causes and consequences of federal budget deficits, the long-term challenges facing America's unsustainable entitlement programs, and how to build a sound foundation for economic growth."

Early life

Tsongas was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, [1] along with a twin sister, Thaleia, to a once working-class family who came to own a very successful dry cleaning business in Lowell. His father, Efthemios George Tsongas, was a Greek immigrant, and his mother, Katina (née Pappas; originally Panagiotopoulos), was of Greek descent. [2]

Greece republic in Southeast Europe

Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic, also known as Hellas, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of 2018; Athens is the nation's capital and largest city, followed by Thessaloniki.

Tsongas attended Dartmouth College, graduating in 1962 with an A.B. in economics, then Yale Law School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University before settling in Lowell, Massachusetts. While at Dartmouth, Tsongas was a member of the men's swimming team. He picked up the sport again, 27 years later, in 1986, after doctors suggested swimming as a way to rebuild his lung capacity while he was recovering from lymphoma. At a YMCA Masters meet, Tsongas once remarked, "I always used to say breaststroke was an athletic event and the butterfly was the political statement." [3]

John F. Kennedy School of Government School of public administration of Harvard University

The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University is the public policy and public administration school, of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. The school offers master's degrees in public policy, public administration, and international development, grants several doctoral degrees, and many executive education programs. It conducts research in subjects relating to politics, government, international affairs, and economics. Since 1970 the school has graduated 17 heads of state, the most of any educational institution.

Harvard University Private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with about 6,700 undergraduate students and about 13,100 postgraduate students. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning. Its history, influence, wealth, and academic reputation have made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world. It is cited as one of the world's top universities by many publishers.

He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia from 1962–1964, [4] and as Peace Corps Country Director in the West Indies from 1967–1968.

Peace Corps US volunteer agency

The Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the United States government. Its official mission is to provide social and economic development abroad through technical assistance, while promoting mutual understanding between Americans and populations served. The program was established by Executive Order 10924, issued by President John F. Kennedy on March 1961 and authorized by Congress on September 21, 1962 with passage of the Peace Corps Act.

Ethiopia Country in East Africa

Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country in the northeastern part of Africa, known as the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, the de facto state of Somaliland and Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, South Sudan to the west and Sudan to the northwest. With over 109 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populous nation on the African continent with a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 sq mi). Its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa, which lies a few miles west of the East African Rift that splits the country into the Nubian and Somali tectonic plates.

Caribbean Region to the center-east of America composed of many islands / coastal regions surrounding the Caribbean Sea

The Caribbean is a region of the Americas that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands and the surrounding coasts. The region is southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and the North American mainland, east of Central America, and north of South America.

In 1967, Tsongas – working as an aide to Congressman F. Bradford Morse – met Niki Sauvage, who was spending the summer in Arlington, Virginia. They were married in 1969, and had three daughters: Ashley, Katina, and Molly. Niki Tsongas was a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts from 2007-2019.

When Tsongas ran for office, out of concern that people would mispronounce his last name, there were bumper stickers saying "Tsenator Tsongas".

Political career

Tsongas first entered politics as a city councillor, elected to the Lowell City Council in 1969 where he served two consecutive terms. Tsongas went on to serve as a county commissioner of Middlesex County, Massachusetts. In 1974 he ran for United States House of Representatives from a district anchored by Lowell. The district had elected only three Democrats in its entire existence and had been in Republican hands continuously since 1895. However, in the massive Democratic wave of the post-Watergate election of 1974, he defeated freshman Republican Paul W. Cronin by a 21-point margin. He was reelected in 1976, becoming the first Democrat to hold the district for more than one term. Increasingly popular and well-liked in Massachusetts, in 1978 he ran for and was elected to the United States Senate, defeating incumbent Republican Edward Brooke by a 10-point margin.

In 1983, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma [5] and in 1984 announced his retirement from the Senate. His seat went to fellow Democrat, 2004 presidential nominee and United States Secretary of State John Kerry. After undergoing a bone marrow transplant to treat the disease in 1986 and receiving a clean bill of health from doctors in 1991, [6] he returned to politics, running for his party's nomination for President in 1992. Until the 1992 campaign, Tsongas had never lost an election. He was the first former Peace Corps volunteer elected to the U.S. Senate (1978). (In 1974, he and Chris Dodd were the first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.)

In October 1979, after the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted in favor of Alaska public lands legislation, President Jimmy Carter issued a statement thanking Tsongas for his leadership in strengthening the bill. [7]

In May 1982, Tsongas was one of eight senators to vote against a 177.9 billion military authorization bill for 1983. [8]

In July 1982, Tsongas met with Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin, questioning Begin over where negotiations would fit in the event that Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization Yasser Arafat concede the right of Israel to exist along with reneging the covenant of the PLO over calls for Israel's abolition and replacement by a secular state. Tsongas afterward stated the meetings were distressing. [9]

During a May 27, 1983 hearing on the legal effects of the Equal Rights Amendment, the first in over a decade on the amendment, Tsongas was questioned by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch over the measure, being described by the New York Times as "visibly shaken by the treatment Senator Hatch gave him." Tsongas delivered an opening statement and replied "That issue will be decided in the courts" in response to most questions by Hatch. [10]

Political positions

Tsongas was generally viewed as a social liberal and an economic moderate. He was especially known for his efforts in Congress in support of historic preservation and environmental conservation on one hand, and for his pro-business economic policies on the other. [ citation needed ]

Boott Cotton Mill, Museum and Trolley - Lowell Nat'l. Historical Park Front of boott mill.jpg
Boott Cotton Mill, Museum and Trolley - Lowell Nat'l. Historical Park

He played a major role while in the House in the creation of Lowell National Historical Park, as well as in the establishment or expansion of a number of other National Park System areas.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska Inside Passage .jpg
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska

He played an equally key role later in the Senate, working closely with then Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus, in successful passage of the massive Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, which had been hopelessly deadlocked in the Senate since its original passed by the House in 1978.[ citation needed ]

Relative to business and economic matters, Tsongas focused in particular on the Federal budget deficit, a cause he continued to champion even after his presidential primary campaign ended, by co-founding the Concord Coalition.

Tsongas was criticized on occasion by opponents as a Reaganomics-style politician, and as being closer to Republicans with regard to such issues. The Boston Herald editorialized that his political philosophy had "far more in common" with 1990s-era Republican Mitt Romney (who crossed over to vote for Tsongas in the 1992 primaries) than with traditional Massachusetts Democrats like Ted Kennedy. [11] In the mid-1980s, he shocked many of the members of the Americans for Democratic Action by telling them that they should focus more on economic growth than wealth redistribution.

He once quipped, "If anyone thinks the words 'government' and 'efficiency' belong in the same sentence, we have counselling available." [12]

Presidential campaign


Tsongas presidential campaign bumper sticker Tsongas.gif
Tsongas presidential campaign bumper sticker

Described as a "long shot campaign" by the New York Times, Paul Tsongas was the first Democrat to launch a bid for the '92 Presidency, on April 30, 1991 in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. [13] Tsongas campaign was banking heavily on early success in New Hampshire. Like many of the candidates, Tsongas ignored the 1992 contest in Iowa, which was expected to go overwhelmingly to Iowa's Senator Tom Harkin. Tsongas hoped that his New England independence and fiscal conservatism from neighboring Massachusetts would appeal to Granite Staters. He achieved recognition for the bluntness and clarity of his plan, distributing a short book titled A Call to Economic Arms, [14] which focused on such issues as the growing federal deficit. When asked why he did not have a tax cut plan like the other candidates, Tsongas famously answered, "I'm not trying to play Santa Claus." [15]

New Hampshire delegates for Tsongas on the DNC convention floor.. Soft Spot for Paul.jpg
New Hampshire delegates for Tsongas on the DNC convention floor..

During the early weeks of 1992, things seemed to be going Tsongas's way when one of the potential major candidates, Bill Clinton, stumbled over issues involving marital infidelity and avoidance of the military draft during Vietnam. While Clinton was hurt by these issues, the damage seemed to bottom out several weeks before the New Hampshire primary. While Tsongas won the most votes and was declared the winner of the New Hampshire primary, the narrow victory (33.20% to 24.78%) gave each candidate 9 delegates.[ citation needed ] Clinton's adviser James Carville tagged Clinton with the label "the Comeback Kid" and claimed that Clinton's campaign was back on track. While ostensibly the front-runner, Tsongas was already considered by many to be the underdog to Clinton given the support the Arkansas Governor had heading into Super Tuesday.

Following the New Hampshire primary, Tsongas was unable to match Clinton's fundraising. Clinton later went on to win most of the Super Tuesday primaries. Tsongas did go on to win delegate contests in Delaware, Maryland, Arizona, Washington, Utah, and Massachusetts, but his campaign never recovered from Clinton's comeback; Clinton won the primaries of most of the more populous and delegate-rich states.


Madison Square Garden, site of the 1992 Democratic National Convention Madisonsquaregarden.jpg
Madison Square Garden, site of the 1992 Democratic National Convention

Eventually, Tsongas pulled out of the race on 19 March 1992, and endorsed Clinton. [16] [17] However, a number of the Tsongas delegates continued to support the former Senator, and voted for Tsongas on the first ballot at the Convention. The roll call yielded 289 votes for Tsongas, placing him in 3rd place behind Clinton and then-former California Governor, Jerry Brown.

Post-Senate career

In late 1994, Tsongas briefly led an effort to establish a third party, to be led by someone with "national authority", suggesting General Colin Powell for that role. [18] By that time, Tsongas was considered "the most popular political figure in Massachusetts." [11]

Tsongas Center, Lowell, Massachusetts Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell.jpg
Tsongas Center, Lowell, Massachusetts
Tsongas's gravestone in Lowell Cemetery Paul Tsongas gravestone; Lowell Cemetery; Lowell, MA; 2011-09-11.jpg
Tsongas's gravestone in Lowell Cemetery


He died on January 18, 1997, at age 55 of complications from pneumonia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. [19] On January 27, 1998, the Tsongas Center in Lowell was dedicated in his honor. [20]

His obituary in the New York Times of January 20, 1997 states:

"Mr. Tsongas, who was hospitalized on Jan. 3 with a liver problem related to his treatments for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a slow-growing cancer of the lymph system, and later developed pneumonia, died at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Mr. Tsongas made his survival from cancer an issue in his Presidential campaign when he and two of his doctors, Dr. Tak Takvorian and Dr. George P. Canellos, said he had been cancer-free since a bone-marrow transplant in 1986. In May 1996, he underwent another transplant, getting bone marrow from his twin sister, Thaleia Schlesinger, to correct myelodysplasia, a bone-marrow disorder that can occur in people who have recovered from lymph cancer."

In a special election held on October 16, 2007, his widow, Niki, won the Massachusetts Congressional seat that Tsongas once held. [21]

Preservation Massachusetts, a statewide nonprofit focused on preserving Massachusetts history, has an annual Paul Tsongas Award to honor restoration workers in the state. [22]

Electoral history

Massachusetts 5th district, 1974 [23]

Massachusetts 5th district, 1976 [24]

1978 Massachusetts United States Senate Democratic primary [25]

1978 Massachusetts United States Senate election [26]

1992 United States Democratic presidential primaries

See also

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  1. Rimer, Sara (January 23, 1997). "Hometown Recalls Paul Tsongas as Hero Who Inspired Renewal and Pride". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  2. The Journal of Psychohistory - Google Books. Retrieved on 2013-08-23.
  3. Robb, Sharon (May 3, 1992). "Tsongas an Also-Ran in Swimming Pool, Too". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved May 7, 2019. (not accessible to users in the European Economic Area)
  4. "Sargent Shriver Awards for Distinguished Humanitarian Service" (PDF). Peace Corps Times (25th Anniversary Conference). Washington DC: Peace Corps. November–December 1986. p. 7. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  5. New York Times, Ex-Senator Gets Transplant, September 5, 1986. Retrieved October 20, 2007.
  6. "Tsongas's Cancer Battle". The New York Times. January 22, 2014. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  7. Carter, Jimmy (October 30, 1979). "Alaska Public Lands Legislation Statement on Approval by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee". American Presidency Project.
  9. Kamm, Henry (July 28, 1982). "BEGIN AND HABIB MEET BUT GIVE NO PROGRESS REPORT". New York Times.
  11. 1 2 Kornacki, Steve (March 7, 2011) Mitt Romney and his five political lives, Salon
  12. Kramer, Michael. (March 2, 1992) "The Political Interest: Who Has the Best Plan for Fixing the Economy?", Time
  13. Toner, Robin (May 1, 1991). "Tsongas Is First Entrant in 92 Presidential Race". New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  14. A Call to Economic Arms Archived June 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  15. The 1992 Campaign: Media; Old Queries Greet Tsongas on Climb
  16. Toner, Robin (March 20, 1992). "THE 1992 CAMPAIGN: Primaries; TSONGAS ABANDONS CAMPAIGN". The New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  17. Butterfield, Fox (February 23, 1993). "AIDE TO TSONGAS INDICTED IN FRAUD". The New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  18. Tsongas Pushing "President Powell". TIME (1994-12-13). Retrieved on 2013-08-23.
  19. Paul Tsongas, Who Made Presidential Bid, Dies at 55
  20. Tsongas Arena, Lowell MA, Entertainment Venue, Sports, Concerts, Tradeshows, Lock Monsters, RiverHawks Archived December 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ABC News: Dem Senator's Widow Wins House Seat
  22. "Preservation Awards Dinner". Preservation Massachusetts. Archived from the original on July 31, 2012. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  23. Our Campaigns - MA District 05 Race - Nov 04, 1974
  24. Our Campaigns - MA District 05 Race - Nov 02, 1976
  25. Our Campaigns - MA US Senate- D Primary Race - Sep 19, 1978
  26. Our Campaigns - MA US Senate Race - Nov 07, 1978

Further reading

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Paul W. Cronin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
James Shannon
Party political offices
Preceded by
John J. Droney
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
(Class 2)

Succeeded by
John Kerry
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Edward Brooke
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Massachusetts
Served alongside: Ted Kennedy
Succeeded by
John Kerry