Niki Tsongas represents the Third Congressional District of Massachusetts which is made up of thirty-seven cities and towns, including the old industrial cities of the Merrimack and Nashoba Valleys, including Fitchburg, Gardner, Haverhill, Methuen, Lawrence and Lowell, as well as the Boston suburbs of Concord, Acton and Marlborough. A resident of Lowell now serving her fourth term in the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Tsongas was elected to Congress in a Special Election in 2007.
Tsongas’ election in 2007 marked the first time a woman from Massachusetts was elected to serve in Congress in twenty-five years. The first woman to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives, Edith Nourse Rogers, was from the same district as Tsongas. Rogers was a powerful advocate for veterans and was one of the principal authors of the original GI Bill, a tradition Tsongas has carried on as the only Massachusetts member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Tsongas has made accessibility a hallmark of her Congressional office. With offices in Lowell, Lawrence and Fitchburg, and office hours in Haverhill and Marlborough, she has worked to make it as easy as possible for residents to connect with her about any issue of concern to them or to get assistance with problems they may have when dealing with federal agencies. In fact, it has been through the people she represents, at town hall meetings, Congress on Your Corner events, in letters and emails, and during office hours, that she has drawn inspiration for many of her legislative accomplishments.
Niki is known for her roots in the Third District and her years of public service to the region. The Lowell Sun recently described Tsongas’ tenure in Congress by stating,
“Tsongas has convinced us of a core common goal: As long as she is in Congress, the best interests of constituents will always come ahead of party politics. Since 2010, Tsongas has proven she is one of the more independent lawmakers in Massachusetts’ 10 member House delegation. She has shown a willingness to work with Republicans to advance the cause of a stronger economy and military defense system. …by and large Tsongas listens, learns and makes the tough choices based on a multitude of information. We can’t fault anyone who does their homework, and Tsongas does hers. Congress needs more lawmakers like Tsongas who will elevate civil discussion, embrace bipartisanship and stand up for causes that promote the common good.”
Tsongas serves on the House Armed Services Committee, a position she sought out when first elected. In 2013, Tsongas’ hard work led to her being named to a leadership position as the top Democrat on the Subcommittee for Oversight and Investigation. The Third District has a long history of military service, which is reflected both in the number of residents who serve in the active duty military as well as in the numerous veterans who call the Third District home. Tsongas also represents one of the largest concentrations of defense related employers in the country that manufacture the products, develop the technology and create the jobs that keep our nation strong and our servicemembers safe.
As a member of the Armed Services Committee, Tsongas has pushed for development of lightweight body armor and new measures to better prevent and respond to incidents of sexual assault in the military.
Tsongas also serves on the Natural Resources Committee, which oversees legislation related to domestic energy production, National Parks, rivers, forests, oceans and wilderness areas. Tsongas serves on the National Parks Subcommittee where she works to support the success of the first urban national park of its kind in Lowell and expand this pioneering concept to other urban communities. Tsongas has also played an instrumental role in protecting the historic setting of Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, where visitors see first-hand where the American Revolution began after the ‘shot heard round the world.’
A founding member of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, Tsongas has worked to foster and support the growing companies in the Third District that are poised to compete globally in developing and manufacturing clean energy technologies.
Tsongas grew up the eldest of four sisters in a military family, an experience that would shape much of her approach to life — teaching her the purpose of service and sacrifice, the importance of working for your community, and the value of family. Her father, Colonel Russell Elmer Sauvage, served as a civil engineer in the United States Air Force and was a survivor of the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor.
By the time Niki was 14, her family had been stationed at air bases all across the US and Europe, including California, Texas, Virginia, and Germany, where her father was part of the team that oversaw the build out of Ramstein Air Force Base — the very air base currently used to bring US soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
Niki attended an American high school in Japan while her father was stationed at Fuchu Air Force Base and then spent one year at Michigan State before attending Smith College in Northampton, MA.
In 1967, with her father now stationed at the Pentagon, Niki spent the summer between her junior and senior years in Alexandria, Virginia. It was then that she met Paul Tsongas, who was working as an intern for Congressman Brad Morse of the Massachusetts Fifth District (the same region that was renamed the Third District in 2012).
In 1969, Paul and Niki were married and took up permanent residence in Lowell, which she’s described as “the only hometown I’ve ever known.”
Paul served the city of Lowell and eventually the entire Commonwealth as a Lowell City Councilor, Middlesex County Commissioner, US Representative and US Senator. However, in September of 1983 the Tsongas family was forced to rethink all their aspirations and face their toughest challenge when Paul was diagnosed with cancer.
Paul chose not to seek reelection to the US Senate in order to focus on treatment for his illness and spend more time with his young family. Leaving Washington, Niki attended law school and upon graduating, became a partner in Lowell’s first all-female law firm.
After a bone marrow transplant, Paul beat back the cancer. Five years later, in 1991, he announced his candidacy for President of the United States. Niki helped her husband run an inspired campaign that many observers say defined the national debate that year. Sadly, in 1996, Paul faced a second, well-known fight, this time with complications from cancer treatments, which he lost in 1997.
Niki continued her dedication to public service, building on what she and Paul had accomplished. Prior to being elected to Congress, she was the Dean of External Affairs at Middlesex Community College, the largest community college in the Commonwealth. As a committed community leader in Lowell, serving on the Lowell Civic Stadium and Arena Commission which oversees the LeLacheur Ballpark and previously oversaw the Tsongas Arena (now the UMass Lowell Tsongas Center), the Lowell Plan, the Merrimack Repertory Theater and the Pollard Memorial Library Board of Trustees, Niki continued to work for the revitalization of the city she has called home for 40 years. And, she’s been a member of numerous corporate and non-profit boards because of her strong belief that business must be constructively engaged in the fight for social and environmental justice.
She was elected to the US House of Representatives in a 2007 Special Election to represent the people of the Fifth District, which was renamed the Third District after her most recent reelection in 2012.
But of all her accomplishments, Niki is most proud of her three daughters, Ashley, Katina and Molly, who like their parents, have also met the call of public service. The Tsongas family recently welcomed its newest member, Niki’s first grandchild Declan Paul.