Former East Bay Congresswoman, diplomat Ellen Tauscher passes at 67

Represented Antioch; also served as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control under President Obama, and on U.C. Board of Regents

Ellen Tauscher. Photo by U.S. State Department.

By Allen Payton

Ellen Tauscher, who represented parts of Contra Costa County, including Antioch, in California’s 10th Congressional District during her six terms in Congress, died on Monday, April 29 at the age of 67, according to news reports. According to an L.A. Times report, she died of pneumonia after battling it since January.

Tauscher was elected in 1996, beating former Congressman Bill Baker, and served until 2009. She was considered a centrist and become a leader in two fiscally conservative Democratic caucuses, the pro-business New Democratic Coalition and the balance-budget minded Blue Dog Coalition, in the House of Representatives.

During her years in Congress, as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Surface Transportation Subcommittee, Tauscher helped secure $33 million in federal funds for projects in her district, including the widening of Highway 4 in Eastern Contra Costa County, as part of a total $2 billion in funding for regional transportation projects. She also helped create the first balanced budget in 30 years, that gave middle class families a much needed tax cut. She also served as vice chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

In 2009, during President Obama’s first year in office, Tauscher accepted a position with the U.S. State Department as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs. In that position, she helped negotiate the New Start treaty with the Russian federation in May 2010. In February 2012 Tauscher began serving as Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense at the State Department until August 31, 2012.

She later served on the University of California Board of Regents and as chairman of the Board of Governors for both the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National labs.

According to her Wikipedia page, “Since leaving the State Department, Tauscher assumed a number of publicly held corporate and non-profit board positions, including serving on the boards of Edison International/Southern California Edison (EIX) in Rosemead, California, and eHealth (EHTH) in Mountain View, California. She served on the Board of Advisors of SpaceX, the Board of Directors of BAE Systems, INC., NTI, and the Executive Committee of the Atlantic Council. She served as vice chair of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.”

According to her 2000 campaign biography, Tauscher “was born in East Newark, NJ on November 15, 1951. The first member of her family to attend college, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Seton Hall University in 1974.

Tauscher began her career on Wall Street. At 25 years of age, she was one of the first and youngest women to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. During her 14 years on Wall Street, Congresswoman Tauscher worked for Bache Securities and then joined…SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt to transform the American Stock Exchange…into a reputable rival to the New York Stock Exchange.”

Also according to Wikipedia, “In 1989, Tauscher moved to California and later founded the ChildCare Registry, the first national research service to help parents verify the background of childcare workers. She also published The ChildCare Sourcebook and headed the Tauscher Foundation, which provided funds for elementary schools to buy computers and Internet access.

In July 2010, Tauscher was diagnosed with Stage 3 esophageal cancer, one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States and one of the deadliest, with a survival rate of 18%. After a grueling regimen of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery to remove her esophagus, Tauscher was declared cancer-free in December 2010.”

On Tuesday, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) released the following statement on her passing:

“Ellen was a public servant, fierce advocate, and glass ceiling breaker. From her early days as founder of the first service to help parents screen childcare workers to her 12 years as a United States Representative, she was always working to improve the lives of families. In the East Bay, Ellen was involved in every major transportation project including Highway 4 and the Caldecott Tunnel with the goal of helping people spend less time on the roads and more time enjoying life. As an Under Secretary of State, Ellen played an important in role in negotiating the reduction of arms with Russia. After leaving politics, she invested her time in the issues she most cared about including as Chair of the Board of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Foundation. Throughout her time in government, Ellen was an inspiration and mentor in our community especially for many young women starting their careers.

“Ellen lived a life in service to others. I am honored to have called her a friend. My heart goes out to her family and loved ones in Contra Costa and across the nation.”

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement on the death of Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher:

“The passing of Ellen Tauscher is a loss for us all.

“Ellen was brilliant, gracious and generous and always did her level best to lift up those around her. Ellen was a best friend and I’ll never forget her.

“Ellen had a huge heart and was always ready with a story. She wouldn’t hesitate to help anyone in need, always with a kind word or quip to lift your spirits. My favorite times with Ellen were our weekend dinners in Washington where we’d laugh and trade stories over a glass of California wine.

“At heart, Ellen was a great human being and a wonderful mother to Katherine, a remarkable young woman herself who stayed at her mother’s side in the hospital and was steady, steadfast and warm.

“Ellen never backed down from a challenge and always stood up for what she thought was right. Before she entered the world of politics she was a trailblazer in finance, one of the first woman members – and the youngest – of the New York Stock Exchange.

“When Ellen put her mind to politics, she was a force. She chaired my first two Senate campaigns, and soon after went on to win her own seat in Congress where she served for 12 years. She would spend another three years as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs. She was recognized as an expert in the field and really understood weapons of war. She was also appointed by Governor Brown to the University of California Board of Regents, another position at which she excelled.

“Ellen had a practical and effective way with policy. She had a knack for getting to the bottom of an issue smartly but also in ways that people could really understand. She truly loved her country and it was an honor to work with her. She remains an inspiration for all of us in Congress and I hope younger members will look to her as an example to emulate. She’ll always be remembered.”

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2 Comments to “Former East Bay Congresswoman, diplomat Ellen Tauscher passes at 67”

  1. Arne Simonsen says:

    This is very sad news. I had 17+ meetings with Ellen when I was on the Antioch City Council in Washington DC and locally to secure federal funding to widen Highway 4 through Antioch. When She secured the funding, she called me to let me know and then said that she didn’t want to hear from me again lol But I reminded her that I’d be back in 5 years when it was up for renewal.

    Being one of the first women on the New York Stock Exchange, she was an outstanding Blue Dog Democrat in Congress who understood the private sector. I wish there were more like her in Congress today. Rest in Peace, Ellen. You left a great legacy of public service.

  2. Julio says:

    I remember when she worked with Antioch to get our ugly unkempt post office landscaped. It has not been properly maintained since. They don’t even clear the weeds properly or water at all. Thank you Mrs. Tauscher!

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