Paul David Tonko (born June 18, 1949) is the U.S. Representative from New York's 20th congressional district, a post he has held since 2009. He is a member of the Democratic Party. The district, numbered as the 21st for his first two terms, is located in the heart of the Capital District and includes Albany, Schenectady and Troy. Tonko previously represented the 105th District in the New York Assembly from 1983 to 2007.
Tonko was president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, from 2007 until his resignation on April 25, 2008. He soon after declared his candidacy for Congress and was first elected in 2008.
Early life, education, and early career
Tonko is a lifelong resident of Amsterdam, New York, near Schenectady. He holds a degree in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering from Clarkson University. He is primarily of Polish descent.
After college, Tonko became active in politics. He was elected as a member, and subsequently Chair, of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors. He also worked for a brief time as an engineer for the New York State Department of Public Service.
New York Assembly (1983-2007)
Tonko was elected to represent the 105th District, which comprised Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Princetown, Mohawk, Glen and part of Schenectady. In January 1983, Assemblywoman Gail S. Shaffer resigned her seat to take office as Secretary of State of New York. On April 12, 1983, Tonko was elected to fill the vacancy. He was re-elected thirteen times, serving in the Assembly until 2007.
While in the Assembly, Tonko served as the Chairman of the Committee on Energy, a position he held from 1992 until retirement. Tonko was also a member of standing committees on Agriculture, Transportation and Education, where he was the original sponsor and a chief proponent of the College Tuition Savings Program that was signed into law in 1997.
Tonko was a major advocate of "Timothy's Law" to require health insurers to cover mental illness.
Tonko was a chief sponsor of the Northeast Dairy Compact, and the Chairman of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, He was appointed by Speaker Sheldon Silver to serve as Commissioner for the Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor Commission.
Tonko resigned his seat on June 29, 2007, to become President and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
CEO of NYSERDA (2007-2008)
See also: Energy law and New York energy law
Tonko was President and CEO of NYSERDA from 2007 to 2008, when he resigned to run for U.S. Representative.
U.S. House of Representatives (2008-present)
See also: United States House of Representatives elections in New York, 2008 § District 21
Tonko entered the 2008 Democratic Primary for New York State's 21st Congressional District after 10-term incumbent Michael McNulty (with whom he served in the State Assembly from 1983 to 1989) decided to retire. Despite having less money than both his main rivals, Tonko won the primary on September 9, 2008 with a plurality of 40% of the vote. He ran against Republican James Buhrmaster, a Schenectady County legislator, in the general election.
The 21st had long been the most Democratic district in the state outside of the New York City districts and Western New York. At the time, Democrats outnumbered Republicans in registration in the district by a count of 174,054 to 119,493, with 101,219 not enrolled in any party and a total of 428,655 Voters Registered as of March 1, 2008. It was generally believed that Tonko had assured himself of a seat in Congress with his victory in the primary.
On November 4, 2008, Tonko won in a landslide, with over 60% of the total vote. "Tonko's name recognition ... accomplishment in the Legislature, such as the passage of mental health parity legislation, and his record" contributed to his win. According to preliminary figures the day after the election, he beat Burhmaster by 105,313 to 57,086, with Philip Steck, a minor party candidate, receiving 5,025 votes.
See also: United States House of Representatives elections in New York, 2010 § District 21
In 2010, Tonko ran for re-election on the Democratic, Working Families and Independence Party lines. He was challenged by Republican and Conservative Party nominee Ted Danz, a former United States Navy Reservist and small business owner in the cooling and heating business. Congressional Quarterly rated the race as "Safe" for the incumbent party to keep the seat. Tonko raised almost $980,000, and spent almost $780,000 on his campaign; Danz raised about $44,000 and spent about $42,000 for his own campaign. The seat was rated by The New York Times as being "Solid Democratic" with "99.8 %" to "100 % chance" that Tonko would win the seat. The major issues in the 2010 race were Tonko's "yes" votes for the Health Care Bill, the Stimulus Package (ARRA), and the Energy Bill. The Albany Times Union endorsed Tonko in that race, citing "a way of thinking and speaking like the engineer that he once was" and his support of the economic stimulus bill and health care bills.
Tonko won the general election on November 2, 2010, by a vote of 124,889 to 85,752.
See also: United States House of Representatives elections in New York, 2012 § District 20
Tonko was challenged by Republican Bob Dieterich, senior vice president at First National Bank of Scotia. Former Tonko opponent Jim Buhrmaster cited Albany, particularly the city, as the biggest challenge for a Republican contender. He added, however: “People are voting more independently, and they’re not registering Republican or Democratic.” Tonko won re-election with about 62% of the vote.
See also: United States House of Representatives elections in New York, 2014 § District20
Tonko was challenged by Jim Fischer in the November 2014 election. He won his fourth term with 59% of the vote.
See also: United States House of Representatives elections in New York, 2016 § District20
Tonko was challenged by Francis Joe Vitollo in the November 2016 election. He won his fifth term with 68% of the vote.
Tonko was one of the 19 most liberal House members, according to the National Journal, for 2011.
When he entered Congress, Tonko said he wanted to focus on the issue he said he knows best – energy policy. He sponsored a bill to get $800 million research program in wind energy technologies, which would benefit GE in his district. He also wanted to create a research program to improve the efficiency of gas turbines used in power generation systems that convert heat into energy. In 2010, Tonko got a provision in a House-passed bill, following the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, to prevent future spills and help small businesses in spill research. In 2011, he sponsored an amendment seeking to protect the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate carbon emissions.
He is strongly against expanding the Bush-era tax cuts for high-income earners. Among other key votes, he voted for the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010,Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,American Clean Energy and Security Act, and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. He voted against the Republicans' budget.
Tonko has contributed blog posts to the Huffington Post, with many sharply criticizing the Republican Party, including their "budget hypocrisy" and the threat they pose to Social Security. He praised the 2011 State of the Union address, saying: “the President set out a bold agenda for our nation, an agenda that will focus on growing our economy, growing jobs, and growing opportunity for the middle class”. On numerous occasions, he has also warned of the threat that would allegedly be posed by the healthcare repeal to small businesses, to young people, and to seniors.
Tonko has also worked to raise awareness about the region's waterways, chiefly the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, and the effects of recent flooding following Hurricane Irene. Seeking a comprehensive flood mitigation and economic development strategy, Tonko introduced the Hudson-Mohawk Basin Act in 2012.
He was actively involved in floor debates against the United States federal government shutdown of 2013.
Tonko became a prominent opponent of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 2015, citing American trade deficits and the use of child labor by at least four countries who had already signed the pact as among his reasons for opposing the deal.
Tonko is a member of more than 65 cacuses in his capacity as United States Representative. Below is a small sample of his memberships:
- Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus (vice chair)
- Bicameral Congressional Caucus on Parkinson's Disease
- Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s disease
- Congressional Army Caucus
- Congressional Arts Caucus
- Congressional Biomass Caucus
- Heritage Corridor Caucus
- Congressional Safe Climate Caucus
- Congressional Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Equality Caucus
- Congressional Mental Health Caucus
- Congressional Voting Rights Caucus
- House Manufacturing Caucus
- House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus
- House Baltic Caucus
- ^"Tonko resigns from NYSERDA". Albany Business Review. 28 April 2008. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- ^New York Red Book (2007–08 ed.). Albany, N.Y.: New York Legal Publishing Corp. p. 965. ISSN 0196-4623.
- ^STAVISKY WINS RACE FOR STATE SENATE; ...Paul Tonko, of Amsterdam, a Democrat, was the winner... in The New York Times on April 13, 1983
- ^Eaton, Leslie (December 6, 1998). "New Yorkers Rush to Invest In College Plan". The New York Times. New York, New York. Retrieved January 15, 2009.
- ^"Senate Passes "Timothy's Law" to Provide Mental Health Parity" (Press release). The Senate Republican Majority. September 15, 2006. Retrieved January 15, 2009.
- ^Lamendola, Michael (November 5, 2008). "Tonko wins to succeed McNulty". The Daily Gazette. Schenectady, New York. Retrieved January 15, 2009.
- ^"Tonko speaking at SUNY Cobleskill". The Daily Star. Oneonta, New York. May 18, 2007. Retrieved January 15, 2009.
- ^New York State Board of Elections website list of candidates. Retrieved September 11, 2008.
- ^Our Campaigns - NY District 21 - D Primary Race - Sep 09, 2008
- ^ abLauren Stanforth, "It's Tonko in 21st: Democrat will face Buhrmaster," September 10, 2008, found at Times Union website
- ^ abcStandforth, Lauren, and Carol Demare, "Tonko cruises to win in 21st Congressional District: Democrat goes to D.C. with handy win over Buhrmaster", November 5, 2008, found at Election coverage. Retrieved November 5, 2008.
- ^Race ranking and details from CQ Politics. Accessed December 20, 2010.
- ^Campaign contributions from OpenSecrets.org. Accessed December 20, 2010.
- ^ abcRace profile at The New York Times. Accessed December 20, 2010.
- ^Editorial, "Paul Tonko for Congress," Albany Times Union, October 27, 2010. Found at Times Union.com. Accessed December 20, 2010.
- ^New York State Board of elections official returns for November 2, 2010. Accessed December 20, 2010.
- ^"Paul Tonko gains a challenger". Times Union. 6 March 2012.
- ^"Most Liberal House Members -- PICTURES". National Journal. February 23, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
- ^"Rep. Paul Tonko (D)". The National Journal.
- ^"GOP 2012 Budget Plan". The Washington Post.
- ^Tonko, Paul (January 27, 2011). "State of the Union Response". The Huffington Post.
- ^"Rep. Paul Tonko". The Huffington Post.
- ^LeBrun, Fred. "Tonko bill casts wide river net". timesunion.com.
- ^"Members". House Baltic Caucus. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
Read our 2017 Report Card for Tonko.
Tonko is shown as a purple triangle ▲ in our ideology-leadership chart below. Each dot is a member of the House of Representatives positioned according to our liberal–conservative ideology score (left to right) and our leadership score (leaders are toward the top).
The chart is based on the bills Tonko has sponsored and cosponsored. See full analysis methodology.
Ratings from Advocacy Organizations
Paul Tonko sits on the following committees:
Tonko was the primary sponsor of 2 bills that were enacted:
View All »
We consider a bill enacted if one of the following is true: a) it is enacted itself, b) it has a companion bill in the other chamber (as identified by Congress) which was enacted, or c) if about one third or more of its provisions were incorporated into bills that were enacted (as determined by an automated text analysis, applicable beginning with bills in the 110th Congress).
Tonko sponsors bills primarily in these issue areas:
Energy (22%)Health (19%)Armed Forces and National Security (16%)Taxation (13%)Education (9%)Environmental Protection (9%)Government Operations and Politics (6%)Water Resources Development (6%)
Some of Tonko’s most recently sponsored bills include...
View All » | View Cosponsors »
|Tonko’s Vote||Vote Description|
|No||H.Res. 546: Providing for consideration of the conference report to accompany the bill (H.R. 22) to authorize funds for Federal-aid ...|
Dec 3, 2015. Passed 384/40.
|No||H.R. 3038: Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, Part II|
Jul 15, 2015. Passed 312/119.
|No||H.R. 2146: Defending Public Safety Employees’ Retirement Act|
Jun 18, 2015. Passed 218/208.
This vote made H.R. 2146 the vehicle for passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal currently being negotiated. H.R. 2146 was originally introduced as a bill to address issues with retirement funds of federal law enforcement officers and firefighters. ...
|Yea||H.R. 2048: Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline Over Monitoring Act of 2015|
May 13, 2015. Passed 338/88.
The USA Freedom Act (H.R. 2048, Pub.L. 114–23) is a U.S. law enacted on June 2, 2015 that restored in modified form several provisions of the Patriot Act, which had expired the day before. The act imposes some new limits on the bulk collection of ...
|No||H.R. 1731: National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015|
Apr 23, 2015. Passed 355/63.
|Nay||H.R. 83 (113th): Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015|
Dec 11, 2014. Passed 219/206.
This bill became the vehicle for passage of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 [pdf], which was approved by the House on December 11, 2014 and by the Senate on December 13, 2014. The bill was originally introduced on January 3, 2013 by ...
|No||H.J.Res. 124 (113th): Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015|
Sep 17, 2014. Passed 319/108.
|No||H.R. 10 (113th): Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act|
May 9, 2014. Passed 360/45.
|No||H.R. 2218 (112th): Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act|
Sep 13, 2011. Passed 365/54.
|Aye||H.R. 1249 (112th): Leahy-Smith America Invents Act|
Jun 23, 2011. Passed 304/117.
The Leahy–Smith America Invents Act (AIA) is a United States federal statute that was passed by Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on September 16, 2011. The law represents the most significant change to the U.S. patent system since 1952, and ...
From Jan 2009 to Mar 2018, Tonko missed 42 of 6,596 roll call votes, which is 0.6%. This is better than the median of 2.3% among the lifetime records of representatives currently serving. The chart below reports missed votes over time.
Show the numbers...
|Time Period||Votes Eligible||Missed Votes||Percent||Percentile|
The information on this page is originally sourced from a variety of materials, including:
Paul Tonko is pronounced:
pawl // TONG-koh
The letters stand for sounds according to the following table:
|Letter||Sounds As In|
Capital letters indicate a stressed syllable.