Ellen Tauscher, who represented portions of Sacramento County in Congress for more than a decade before negotiating a major nuclear arms control treaty with Russia as a State Department official, died Monday at Stanford University Hospital. She was 67.
Her death was confirmed in a statement from her family, who said she lost a four-month battle with pneumonia.
As a congresswoman from 1997 to 2009, Tauscher became a leader in moderate Democratic politics, chairing the centrist New Democrat Coalition. She also led the Strategic Forces subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, which oversees nuclear weapons, missile defense and the national labs. Her district stretched from the East Bay to the Delta communities and north to Fairfield.
Tauscher left Congress in 2009 to join the State Department in the Obama administration, where she helped lead negotiations with Russia over the 2010 New START treaty, which cut U.S. and Russian stockpiles of strategic nuclear missile launchers. It was the first major arms control agreement between the two powers in almost two decades. John Garamendi replaced her after a special election in 2009 and has held the seat, since redistricted as the 3rd District, representing the communities in the East Bay, as well as areas in Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties.
More recently, she served as a University of California regent and was a member of the governing boards for the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national labs.
Tauscher grew up in Harrison, New Jersey, the daughter of a United Food and Commercial Workers Union representative and a secretary. She graduated from Seton Hall University in New Jersey and worked as an investment banker and in the nonprofit sector before getting into politics. Tauscher became the youngest woman to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange at age 25.
She got her first political experience as a fundraiser, chairing Dianne Feinstein’s first two U.S. Senate campaigns in 1992 and 1994. In her first race of her own, Tauscher narrowly defeated Republican congressional incumbent Bill Baker in 1996 in an upset victory.
“Ellen never backed down from a challenge and always stood up for what she thought was right,” Feinstein said in a statement. “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.”