LOWELL -- U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, who followed in her late husband's footprints to represent Greater Lowell in Congress for more than a decade, announced Wednesday she will not be a candidate for re-election in 2018.

In a statement released Wednesday morning, Tsongas said: "Ten years ago, I sought this seat because I was motivated by a lifelong commitment to public service and a desire to change people's lives for the better. I also felt, as I have often said, that women can't win if women don't run. I'm proud that my election marked the first time in a quarter century that Massachusetts sent a woman to Congress. Since that door cracked open, the Commonwealth has elected another female member of Congress, our first female US Senator, and in my district, 50 percent of our state legislators are now women, paving the way for even more women from our state to serve in political office bringing their voices to all we value as a country."

Tsongas was first elected in a 2007 special election, after then-Rep. Marty Meehan resigned to become UMass Lowell chancellor. She emerged from a crowded Democratic primary, that included now state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, and later beat Republican Jim Ogonowski in the general election.

Tsongas went on to be elected five more times, most recently last fall, beating Republican Ann Wofford from Haverhill.


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In recent years, she has been the subject of speculation that she might not seek re-election.

Tsongas went on to say in her statement: "In the ten years I've had the privilege of serving, I have worked to make a difference in the lives of the people of our district and the nation. My very first vote in Congress was cast to expand health care for women and children. Given our family's experience and knowing how critical access to affordable health coverage is, I helped pass life-saving health care reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act, and have fought to defend its protections for millions of Americans.

"Most of all, I have wanted to make a difference for young people like my three daughters - to contribute what I could so that future generations would realize the promise of America. I'm especially proud of the role I have been able to play in challenging the ways in which women are treated in the military, understanding that if you change the culture of one of our country's rightly honored bedrock institutions, you can change a country. That's why I worked to address the multitude of ways that women in the military, committed to serving our country, have been marginalized. And, that's why, year after year, I reached across the aisle and co-authored historic reforms to confront and blunt the inexcusable fact of sexual assault in the military and better support survivors by giving them essential legal tools to seek justice."

Follow Scott on Twitter @cscottlowellsun.

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