2000 Kicks Off With Hotly Contested Political Races

Part 1 – How to Distinguish the Pretenders from the Contenders?

In six weeks–Armenian-Americans in California will join millions of others throughout California and around the country in the first stage of deciding who to support in the November elections. While this decision may be easier made in areas where Armenian-Americans reside in relative obscurity and candidates often ignore issues unique to the Armenian-American community–areas like Glendale–Burbank and Pasadena are attracting more "pro-Armenian" and even "Armenian" candidates than ever before and Armenian-American voters are finding themselves in the position of having to choose between friends. While some view this as a cumbersome problem–others understand that–for the first time in memory–Armenia’s are–at least on the local level–afforded the opportunity to choose from two or more attractive options. As a result–it is now more important than ever to articulate and establish the criteria by which to evaluate candidates vying for public office and seeking Armenian-American community support.

First–how consistently active has the candidate been on Armenian issues? Or more simply put–"where were you when I needed you?"

Over the past decade the Armenian-American community has made huge strides in gaining both credibility and respect as a powerful voting bloc. The Armenian-American community’s political maturation was best illustrated last year when first-time candidate Rafi Manoukian–the Armenian-American community’s consensus candidate–emerged from relative obscurity to capture one of two Glendale City Council seats. Since the Manoukian upset–George Chapjian won his City Council race in Duarte and Alex Aghjaian emerged victorious in his bid for Pasadena School Board. The main stream media and political prognosticators have taken notice of these victories and–while some welcome this abrupt shift in the political landscape and others view it as a threat to the status quo–few have dismissed it as an aberration.

Today–every serious political candidate and their consultants seeking support in the Glendale–Burbank and Pasadena areas consider the "Armenian factor" in evaluating their chances for success. Accordingly–and to the surprise of no one–candidates are now more than ever seeking to curry favor from the Armenian community by virtue of their legislative and other initiatives.

Incredibly–some in the community–either befuddled by the American political process or simply over eager in their attempt to discredit a candidate not to their personal liking–have characterized legislative victories for the Armenian community as "bribes." A bribe is–first and foremost–a crime–especially incendiary when applied to a public official. While one might think this is self-evident–it apparently bears repeating that no accusation of a crime should be made without sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim. Furthermore–if the so-called "bribe" criteria being recklessly bandied about is actually applied to the numerous government appropriations routinely made to community organizations or foreign governmen’s–then all appropriations–be they for roads–community centers or educational films are bribes and the term "bribe" becomes indistinguishable from appropriation and ultimately meaningless.

Elected officials are not naive and understand the value in keeping their constituents happy. Those who seek to accommodate the Armenian-American community’s reasonable and just deman’s should be both recognized for their efforts and praised for their political skill in securing support for their initiatives.

Therefore–a more telling indication of the worthiness of a candidates is not whether they have pursued an initiative on behalf of the Armenian-American community–but rather how often–how consistently–with how much success and with how much prompting? In other words–I know that I can count on you in an election year–but how about after the election is over?

The most accurate manner to predict future performance is a review of one’s past performance. In the Year 2000 it is critical to not only identify what a candidate has achieved on behalf of the Armenian community but also what he or she has failed to do. Only this way–will the we being to sift out the pretenders from the contenders.

A public service by the Armeian National Committee-Political Action Committee

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