The widow of 1992 presidential candidate Paul Tsongas defeated the brother of an American Airlines pilot slain in the Sept. 11 terror attacks Tuesday in the special election to replace Democrat Martin Meehan in the U.S. House.
Democrat Niki Tsongas of Lowell edged Republican Jim Ogonowski of Dracut, whose brother John died when his plane was hijacked and flown in the World Trade Center. With 170 of 195 precincts reporting, she had 51 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Ogonowski.
Tsongas, 61, could be sworn in as early as Wednesday to fill the seat once held by her late husband. The seat was left empty in July when Democrat Martin Meehan resigned to become chancellor of his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Tsongas becomes the only woman in the state’s 10-member House delegation and the first to represent Massachusetts since 1983, when Republican Margaret Heckler left office.
Tsongas’s husband died in 1997 of side effects from the cancer that prompted him to retire from the Senate in 1985. He beat fellow Democrat Bill Clinton in the 1992 New Hampshire primary during a period of remission.
A crowd of several hundred crowded in a Lowell brew pub cheered when television screens reported the news of Tsongas’s victory about 9:15 p.m. Many in the room had been supporters of her husband, veteran sign-carriers who traveled across the nearby New Hampshire border during his 1992 campaign.
Throughout the campaign, Tsongas, dean of external affairs at Middlesex Community College, and Ogonowski, 50, a family farmer who retired from the Air Force in June after a 28-year career, said their race would either serve as a referendum on the policies of President Bush, or mark a public upbraiding of the Democratically controlled House and Senate.
A flashpoint for Tsongas was Bush’s veto of expanded funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance program. The House is scheduled to vote on a veto override Thursday, and Tsongas lambasted Ogonowski for refusing to say before the election how he would vote.
By Associated Press
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