Hats off to Massachusetts congressional candidate Nicki Tsongas, widow of the late presidential candidate Paul Tsongas, who won a race to replace Congressman Marty Meehan. I've been following this race which was picked by Immigrants List because of Tsongas' opponents anti-immigration views. I'm especially happy to hear about this because I was a volunteer on Senator Tsongas' 1992 presidential campaign. Here's IL's press release on the election:



Pro-immigration Reform Candidate Wins Nasty Special Election

By Drew Seman

On Tuesday, October 16th Democrat Niki Tsongas won a hotly contested election despite facing an onslaught of anti-immigration attacks.  The Special Election for the 5th Congressional District of Massachusetts foreshadows how the demonization of immigrants and strident opposition to immigration reform will shape the 2008 elections.   

Tsongas ran a balanced campaign, focusing primarily on war in Iraq and SCHIP, the well known health insurance legislation for disadvantaged children.  She spoke out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform and did not back down from this position despite relentless attaches by her opponent.

The Boston Globe reported that her opponent, Jim Ogonowski, attempted to win the race by "[keeping] an unrelenting focus on a big, divisive issue: immigration."  Ogonowski mimicked the immigration wedge strategy used unsuccessfully by many Republican candidates in 2006.  His final weekend radio ad attacked Tsongas for allegedly wanting to provide illegal immigrants with amnesty, social security, health care, college tuition and driver's licenses.  One press report said that people in the district received daily anti-immigrant mailings from Ogonowski during the last week of the campaign. 

Immigrants' List, the pro-immigration reform Political Action Committee, raised almost $20,000 for Niki Tsongas during the last week of the election. This money allowed her to counter Ogonowski's attacks- he had even gone so far as to say he opposed SCHIP because it could give health care to some children of illegal immigrants.

The final vote shows Tsongas won by 6%.  Some analysts claimed that this was a real victory for Republicans and anti-immigrant voices.  This view is based on Kerry's 57-41 trouncing of President Bush in 2004.  The reality is that Kerry was running in his home state with no Governor, Senate or Congressional race below him. 

A more accurate model for this contest would be midterm election numbers.  In 2002, Republican Governor Mitt Romney won the district with 55% of the vote.  In 2006, Democrat Gubernatorial Candidate Deval Patrick won with 53% of the vote.  Patrick's race was a 3-way contest vs. Tsongas's 5-way.

Ogonowski's immigration wedge failed for a host of reasons, including the all important factor of money used to counter anti-immigrant falsehoods. Despite Ogonowski's failure, there is little doubt that candidates will use anti-immigration attacks again in 2008.

As long as these attacks persist, immigration reform will remain stagnate.  That is why Immigrants' List is fighting to ensure that these anti-immigration candidates lose and pro-immigrant voices win in 2008 and beyond.  Only then will Congress be able to move past the political rhetoric and finally pass immigration reform.  To join Immigrants' List and learn more about what you can do to help, go to http://www.immigrantslist.org.