Former Representative Ellen Tauscher, Giant in the House, Dies at 67
Lifelong Trailblazer Was Also Devoted to Child Care, Families and Education
Former congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, who later distinguished herself as a senior arms-control advisor to President Barack Obama, has died.
Tauscher died late Monday night at the age of 67. Her family announced her passing in a Facebook post, stating she “lost the battle against pneumonia” which she had been fighting since January.
The post said she “died peacefully surrounded by her loving daughter Katherine and the rest of her family.”
In April, Tauscher herself took to Facebook to announce she had also been experiencing complications from her 2010 surgery for esophageal cancer.
Ellen O’Kane Tauscher, a lifelong Democrat, represented California’s 10th congressional district from 1997 until her resignation in 2009 to join the State Department.
She served as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs until February 2012, and then was a special envoy for strategic stability and missile defense at the State Department until August 2012.
Tauscher was born in Newark, New Jersey on November 15, 1951, and worked as an investment banker and stock broker before beginning her career in politics. By then, she’d already distinguished herself by becoming, at 25, one of the first women to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
“Ellen was a force to be reckoned with from the time she was a young girl,” her family wrote. “As the youngest and one of the first women to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, Ellen broke barriers for generations of women that followed her into the male-dominated world of finance.”
Tauscher began her second life, in politics, by becoming a highly successful Democratic fundraiser and serving as co-chair for the Senate campaigns of Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in 1992 and 1994.
Then, “[i]n 1996, Ellen ran and won an historic election for Congress, winning a Republican seat that no one thought a Democrat would win,” her family said.
In the House, Tauscher quickly established herself as a centrist Democrat, and she chaired the New Democrat Coalition, a caucus of 65 moderate House Democrats.
She also served on the Armed Services Committee and chaired its Strategic Forces subcommittee, which put her in position to oversee the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile and support the two national labs in her district, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the California campus of Sandia National Laboratories.
“Public service was her calling, and there was no job she loved more than representing the people of Contra Costa, Alameda, and Solano counties for seven terms in Congress,” they said.
After retirement, Tauscher remained involved in public affairs as a member of the University of California Board of Regents, where she headed a key security committee overseeing the university’s three federal labs.
She also was chairwoman of the Military Advisory Council under Gov. Jerry Brown.
Among those paying tribute to Tauscher on Tuesday was Senator Feinstein, who called the former congresswoman the best of friends.
“She wouldn’t hesitate to help anyone in need, always with a kind word or quip to lift your spirits,” Feinstein said in a written statement. “My favorite times with Ellen were our weekend dinners in Washington, where we’d laugh and trade stories over a glass of California wine.”
Tauscher also devoted considerable time, before, during and after her political career, to the issue of child care. She was the author of the Childcare Sourcebook in the 1990’s and founded the first national research service to help parents verify the background of childcare workers.
The sweep of her interests and accomplishments was a marvel to those who knew her, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, who said in statements that “[f]or decades, Ellen tackled some of our most pressing challenges – from access to child-care to nuclear arms control – with grace and heart.”
“She blazed trails in business and in the halls of Congress and she held her own at some of the world’s toughest negotiating tables,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also praised Tauscher, saying her former colleague “strengthened our democratic institutions and kept America safe.”
Tauscher responded to the election of President Donald Trump by launching a super PAC called Fight Back California, contributing to the effort that flipped seven congressional seats to the Democrats in 2018.