Paul Efthemios Tsongas (February 14, 1941 ;January 18, 1997) was the 42nd President of the United States and the latest President to die in office. Previously he also served as a U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative from Massachusetts and held local government office as well.

Early life

Tsongas was born along with a twin sister, Thaleia (Schlesinger), to a working-class Greek father and native Massachusetts mother. He attended Dartmouth College graduating in 1962, Yale Law School and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard before settling in Lowell, Massachusetts.

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

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 was elected to the United States House of Representatives, defeating Republican incumbent Paul W. Cronin. He served two terms in the House, and in 1978 he was elected to the United States Senate, defeating incumbent Edward Brooke. In 1983, however, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma New York Times, 'Ex-Senator Gets Transplant, September 5, 1986. and in 1984 announced his retirement from the Senate. His seat went to fellow Democrat and 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry. After fighting the illness he returned to politics and, in 1992, ran for his party's nomination for President of the United States. Until the 1992 campaign, he had never lost an election.

Presidential campaign


The Tsongas campaign was banking heavily on early success in New Hampshire primary. Like many of the candidates, Tsongas ignored the 1992 Iowa caucus, 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 New Hampshirites. He achieved recognition for the bluntness and clarity of his plan, distributing a short book A Call to Economic Arms, which focused on such issues as the growing federal deficit. When asked why he didn't have a tax cut plan like the other candidates, Tsongas famously responded "I'm not Santa Claus." During the early weeks of 1992, things began to go Tsongas' way when one of the potential major candidates, Bill Clinton, stumbled over issues involving marital infidelity and avoidance of the military draft] during the Vietnam war. Clinton was deeply hurt by these issues, and the damage only seemed to worsen as the weeks before the New Hampshire primary went on. As a result, Tsongas was the winner of the New Hampshire primary.

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


Eventually, Clinton pulled out of the race and endorsed Tsongas. However, a number of the Clinton delegates continued to support the Governor, and voted for Clinton at the convention. The roll call yielded 289 votes for Clinton, placing him in third place, behind Tsongas and former California governor Jerry Brown. In a move that can only be described as brilliant, Tsongas picked this same Clinton to be his running mate at the convention and they branded themselves "The Comeback Kids"...Tsongas for surviving his cancer and Clinton for surviving his scandals. Despite Tsongas being portrayed as "Dukakis number two" and concerns about his cancer reoccurring, they went on to pull a squeaker out against President Bush, winning 296 electoral votes to President Bush's 242 and with 51% of the vote to Bush's 48% of the vote.

Political positions

Tsongas was viewed as a social liberal and economic moderate. He was especially known for his pro-business economic policies. In particular, he focused on the United States budget deficit, a cause he continued to champion after his primary campaign ended, by co-founding The Concord Coalition. Tsongas was often criticized by his opponents as a Reaganomics-style politician, who was closer to Republicans in this matter. 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.

His most memorable quip might have been, "If anyone thinks the words government and efficiency belong in the same sentence, we have counseling available."


Because of the popularity of Tsongas and Clinton, Tsongas easily defeated Senator Robert Dole in 1996 with 57% of the vote. However, the cancer returned. He died of pneumonia and liver failure on January 18, 1997, two days before his term as President ended in 1997.

On January 27, 1998, the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts was dedicated in his honor.

In a Massachusetts's 5th congressional held on October 16, 2007, his widow Niki Tsongas won the Massachusetts's 5th congressional district that Paul once held. Bill Clinton would suceed Tsongas and would go on to serve two terms as president, ending in 2005.

Electoral history

Massachusetts 5th district, 1974

  • Paul Tsongas (D) - 99,518 (60.64%)
  • Paul W. Cronin (R) (inc.) - 64,596 (39.36%)

Massachusetts 5th district, 1976

  • Paul Tsongas (D) (inc.) - 144,217 (67.31%)
  • Roger P. Durkin (D) - 70,036 (32.69%)

Democratic primary for the United States Senate from Massachusetts, 1978

  • Paul Tsongas - 296,915 (35.55%)
  • Paul Guzzi - 258,960 (31.01%)
  • Kathleen Alioto - 161,036 (19.28%)
  • Howard Phillips - 65,397 (7.83%)
  • Elaine Noble - 52,464 (6.28%)
  • Others - 379 (0.05%)

Massachusetts United States Senate election, 1978 C

  • Paul Tsongas (D) - 1,093,283 (55.06%)
  • Edward Brooke (R) (inc.) - 890,584 (44.85%)
  • Others - 1,833 (0.09%)

United States presidential election, 1992 (Democratic primaries)

  • Paul Tsongas - 10,482,411 (52.01%)
  • Jerry Brown - 4,071,232 (20.20%)
  • Bill Clinton - 3,656,010 (18.14%)
  • Unpledged - 750,873 (3.73%)
  • Bob Kerrey - 318,457 (1.58%)
  • Tom Harkin - 280,304 (1.39%)
  • Lyndon LaRouche - 154,599 (0.77%)
  • Eugene McCarthy - 108,678 (0.54%)
  • Charles Woods - 88,948 (0.44%)
  • Larry Agran - 58,611 (0.29%)
  • Ross Perot (write-in) - 54,755 (0.27%)
  • Ralph Nader (write-in) - 35,935 (0.18%)
  • Louis J. Stokes - 29,983 (0.15%)


External links

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