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Tsongas Wins Special Primary and Is Favored to Win Meehan Seat

Massachusetts is poised to send a woman to Congress for the first time in a quarter century.

College administrator Niki Tsongas, the widow of the late Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.), won a spirited special Democratic primary Tuesday and is favored to win the Oct. 16 special election to replace former Rep. Marty Meehan (D), who resigned two months ago.

Tsongas, who was heavily favored at the outset of the special election and had raised more than $1.2 million through Aug. 15, held off a late surge from former Lowell Mayor Eileen Donoghue to win the primary, 36 percent to 31 percent. Three state Representatives split the remainder of the vote.

“The selection is a referendum on the presidency of George W. Bush,” Tsongas told her supporters Tuesday night, according to several media accounts. “If you want to end the war in Iraq, join me and send a message to the White House.”

In the general election, Tsongas, 61, will face 49-year-old farmer Jim Ogonowski, who handily won the Republican primary. Although Republicans and Democrats alike see Ogonowski as an appealing candidate with a compelling story to tell – his brother was a pilot of one of the planes that was hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001 – the 5th district west of Boston is likely too heavily Democratic to be truly competitive, and it remains to be seen whether national GOP leaders have the resources to help their nominee.

Assuming Tsongas wins, she will become the first female Member of Congress from the Bay State since then-Rep. Margaret Heckler (R) was defeated for re-election in 1982.

– Josh Kurtz

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