Armenian-Americans Score Major Gains in US Elections


Harut Sassounian

BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN

After long months of hectic campaigning, a constant barrage of e-mails and ads, and billions of dollars spent by the candidates and their supporters, the US presidential and congressional elections did not change the American political landscape. The United States will have the same President for another four years and the same majorities in the House and Senate. The House remains in the hands of Republicans, and the Senate in the hands of Democrats.

This means that Pres. Obama’s foreign and domestic policies will remain more or less unchanged and Congress will continue to be deadlocked for two or more years, negatively impacting the prospects of a quick economic recovery. House Republicans will probably not support Pres. Obama’s social and economic agenda, particularly on healthcare and taxes.

Even though there were no great political changes resulting from the Nov. 6 elections, Armenian-Americans scored important gains in congressional and local elections. Armenian voters were not instrumental in the outcome of the presidential race, since Pres. Obama received over three million more votes than his Republican rival. It was therefore politically astute to concentrate the Armenian community’s resources and votes on congressional and local races.

A whopping 90% of the 145 congressional candidates backed by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) won reelection. In Senatorial races, 12 out of 15 ANCA endorsed candidates were victorious: Dianne Feinstein (California), Chris Murphy (Connecticut), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Ben Cardin (Maryland), Debbie Stabenow (Michigan), Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), Bob Menendez (New Jersey), Martin Heinrich (New Mexico), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island), Bernard Sanders (Vermont), and Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin).

In House races, 118 of 130 ANCA endorsed candidates were reelected, including Lois Capps (California), Jeff Denham (California), Janice Hahn (California), Ed Royce (California), Adam Schiff (California), David Valadao (California), Cory Gardner (Colorado), Dina Titus (Nevada), Frank Pallone (New Jersey), Michael Grimm (New York), David Cicilline (Rhode Island), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Virginia), and Frank Wolf (Virginia).

The November 6 elections may result in an unexpectedly favorable development in Congress for the Armenian-American community. Cong. Ed Royce, Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, has a good chance of being elected by his colleagues as next Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. A strong supporter of Armenian causes, Cong. Royce would replace outgoing Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, a staunchly pro-Turkish House member.

A similar highly favorable development may take place in the Senate when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton retires shortly at the end of Pres. Obama’s first term. Most political analysts believe that Sen. John Kerry, currently Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a close friend of the Armenian community, may assume a Cabinet position as Secretary of State or Defense, in which case Sen. Menendez, a staunch supporter of Armenian issues, may become next Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The possible simultaneous selection of Cong. Royce and Sen. Menendez as chairs of these two powerful committees would give Armenian-Americans unprecedented access to key foreign policy decision-makers.

More important than the election of friends of the Armenian community was the success of at least 16 Armenian-Americans who were either elected for the first time or reelected to continue serving their constituencies. Armenian-American members of congress, Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier, both from California, were overwhelmingly reelected. Other Armenian-American winners in state and local races were: Linda Arzoumanian, Superintendent, Pima County School Superintendent, Arizona; Khacho Achadjian (incumbent), State Assembly, California; Adrin Nazarian, State Assembly, California; Tim Kapucian (incumbent), State Senate, Iowa; Mary Lou Marzian (incumbent), State House, Kentucky; Peter Koutoujian (incumbent), Middlesex County Sheriff, Massachusetts; James Miceli, State House, Massachusetts; John Fresolo, State House, Massachusetts; Gary Azarian (incumbent), State House, New Hampshire; Charlene Takesian, State House, New Hampshire; Brad Avakian, State Labor Commissioner, Oregon; Scott Avedisian (incumbent), Mayor of Warwick, Rhode Island; Jared Nunes, State House, Rhode Island; and Katherine Kazarian, State House, Rhode Island.

Congratulations to all those who were either elected for the first time or reelected. It is particularly pleasing to see a record number of Armenian-Americans running for political office, most of whom won their respective races. These victories bode well for the future of Armenian-American political activism. The community should support and encourage these public servants so that in a few years they would seek even higher office, running for Congress or the Presidency!

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