Questions With. . . Niki Tsongas

niki_tsongas.jpgDespite the reports of voter disinterest in the 5th district, the race to fill Marty Meehan’s congressional seat is heating up as the September 4th primary draws closer (and voters come back from vacation). Democratic candidate, and current front runner Niki Tsongas, talked to us about what’s in a name and what voters want to see from their new representative.

An article in the Globe last week implied that voters aren’t paying attention to the race. Have you found that in your campaigning?

We’ve found that the activists are always engaged, and the summer is ending so people are starting to pay more attention. We also do the Tscoops events since New Englanders love ice cream, and I get to eat as much of it as I want while talking to the voters.

Who came up with the ideas for “Tscoops” and “PickNikis”?
A couple of different staffers. We’ve always had fun with the Tsongas name.

Have you found voters more concerned with local or national issues?
It’s a combination of the two. The war in Iraq, global warming, and healthcare all have an impact on our day-to-day lives. Local families who send a service person to Iraq and people who live near rivers that flood when they shouldn’t have, these are local issues that need to be addressed at the federal level.

A recent report said that Massachusetts needs $17 billion in infrastructure repairs. How would you help get federal funds to Massachusetts?
I would work with the entire Massachusetts delegation on this. Ending the war in Iraq is crucial. We have tremendous infrastructure needs, but the war costs the United States $13 million an hour so we can’t fix our other problems.

Why hasn’t a woman been in the delegation for so long?
These seats don’t open up very often. Women can’t win if women don’t run, and as the seats open up women should run. The fifth district was the first district in Massachusetts to elect a woman to the House of Representatives [Edith Nourse Rogers] so there’s a real tradition in this regard.

Patrick Murphy has challenged Jamie Eldridge to a wiffle ball game. If asked to play wiffle ball, would you play? Between the candidates, who would win?

We’re all grassroots candidates, so we’re used to playing in the grass. I’d play.