Boston University School of Law

October 19, 2007

tsongas

Niki Tsongas ('88) elected to represent 5th District of Massachusetts

In a groundbreaking election, Niki Tsongas ('88) became the first female in 25 years and the first female democrat in 35 years to be elected to Congress from the state of Massachusetts. According to unofficial tallies of the October 16 race, Tsongas beat her opponent Jim Ogonowski by approximately 6,000 votes, winning the district’s three cities: Lawrence, Lowell and Haverhill.

Tsongas, a household name to most residents of Massachusetts, began her campaign in July. The seat she campaigned to fill was vacated by Marty Meehan, who left office to become chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Tsongas ran on a platform which focused on the war in Iraq, healthcare, employment and global warming. During her campaign, she won the endorsements of three major newspapers: The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and The Lowell Sun.

Prior to the start of her campaign, Tsongas dedicated her career to social justice. Upon graduating from Smith College, she moved to New York City where she joined the Department of Welfare as a social worker. Upon marrying the late Paul Tsongas in 1969, Niki became active in the political world, specifically in her husband’s six political campaigns. In May of 1998, she received an honorary doctor of humane letters from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell for her civic involvement. In 2001, Tsongas was appointed by Meehan to head a foundation to provide educational funding for the children of the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Tsongas began her legal education at BU Law in 1969. Ernest M. Haddad, associate dean of Graduate Programs, remembered his excitement when he learned of Tsongas' decision to attend BU Law: “It was a time when the School was dedicated to recruiting strong women into the law school and the legal profession. I was very pleased Niki decided to attend BU Law and I was very disappointed when she initially withdrew.”

After withdrawing from BU Law in September of 1969 for financial reasons, Tsongas returned in the fall of 1970 to complete one full academic year. Niki completed the rest of her coursework over the next 16 years, from 1972 to 1988, in between participating in her husband’s campaigns and engaging in other civic activities. After graduating in 1988, Tsongas went on to co-found the law firm Tsongas & Murphy, P.C., one of the few female-owned law firms in the Boston area. She has remained active in the BU Law community since graduating, serving on the Executive Committee of the BU Law Alumni Association and contributing to the law school’s annual fund.

Tsongas’ legal education and experience as a lawyer will aide her in her new position as representative of the 5th district of Massachusetts. She was sworn in on October 18, 2007 at the U.S. Capital on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Reported by Jordan Smock