2012 Election: Grimy Gatto II

Garen Yegparian

This week in our election series, let’s take another quick look at someone who is probably the most reprehensible person to have walked the halls of the California legislature in many years, Mike Gatto. As a reminder, the reason it is so important to know about this elected official’s poor behavior is that he represents the largest concentration of Armenians in any electoral-political jurisdiction in the United States. His current opponent is Greg Krikorian, someone who has represented his school district constituency far better than Mike has represented his Assembly district. Greg is also someone who can do a far more sincere job of representing Armenian concerns in Sacramento than Mike, you’ll see why below.

Until a few weeks ago, Mike was part of the “leadership” of the Democratic side of the aisle in the California State Assembly. Since the Democrats are the majority party in Sacramento, that carries a lot of weight. It means a lot of power and responsibility. So what happened? Why did Mike move out of that position? I was surprised to learn that he had been appointed chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. That seemed like a “demotion”. Had he misbehaved in the eyes of the power structure? Something didn’t make sense. Then I remembered that Appropriations is a VERY powerful committee. When a bill involves costs, it has to go through this committee. So whoever is the head honcho of that committee, has a lot of leverage over other members of the Assembly. So I did some asking, and my suspicions were confirmed by Sacramento-scuttlebutt— Mike took this on so he could extract concessions from his peers. Lovely, isn’t it?

Now let’s move on to an example of how Gatto has been busy taking advantage of (and in the process exacerbating) divisions in the Armenian community. You’ll remember that back when Mike first ran for Assembly, it was a four-way race- Sunder Ramani, Mike Gatto, Chahe Keuroghlian, and Nayiri Nahabedian. Many of us remain convinced that Chahe participated in that election strictly to divide the Armenian community’s vote and CAUSE Nayiri to lose. This allowed Mike to win. It was the only way he could win. So he had an interest in dividing the Armenian vote. In this scenario, the Hnchags in our community, through their Armenian Council of America PAC enthusiastically supported Mike BY SUPPORTING CHAHE. Of course, they had to get a payoff, their thirty pieces of silver. This came in the form of “behested payments” *(see below for explanation) secured by Mike Gatto for two Hunchag affiliated organizations, Armenian Education Benevolent Fund and Nor Serount Cultural Association, from the AXA Settlement Claim Fund (yes, the same fund that is now mired in recriminations between the two factions of lawyers on that case). You can see for yourself at http://www.fppc.ca.gov/cosponsor/2011-Assembly.xls. The way to tell this is a “thirty pieces of silver” situation is that these organizations, while totally legitimate, are not much of a presence in the 43rd Assembly district that Mike Gatto supposedly represents. If he really wanted to support the Armenian community in his jurisdiction, there are many other organizations that do much more to serve this community, which he could have helped to fund.

You can see what I meant by Greg Krikorian’s ability to represent his constituents sincerely, whereas with Mike Gatto, it’s all about cynical political calculations, no matter who is involved.

Would you vote for such a conniving person to represent you in the legislature?

A “behested payment” describes this situation: a member of the California State Assembly asks a potential donor to give a charitable organization a donation. The Assemblymember must then report this action if/when the donation is made.


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  1. Vartan said:

    Garen, once again you fail to tell the truth, and those “of [you] [who] remain convinced that Chahe participated in that election strictly to divide the Armenian community’s vote and CAUSE Nayiri to lose” is just an attempt to justify Nayiri’s failure; otherwise, the truth is that Chahe announced his candidacy on Armenian television program hosted by Stepan Hovaguimian (Charter Channel 380) 3 weeks BEFORE Nayiri did. You can assume what you want, but the chronological facts cannot be changed.

  2. Vartan said:

    …And, of course, comments that question Garen’s truthfulness will be “awaiting moderation” by Asbarez’s English section editor!! (Fair and balanced reporting at its best!)

    • Mamikonian said:

      Vartan, if we’re making sure everyone tells the “entire truth” lets put it all on the table. Nayiri was a single example of Chahe’s spineless selling of his community. How about we remember the numerous other candidates we had who lost seat after seat by only a few hundred votes. Chahe was used as a tool for dividing our vote. This is the same technique which has been used for years against many groups including the Jewish community in the late 19th century, African Americans and numerous other groups. As long as there are “candidates” within us who can be pushed to run for the pure sake of dividing our vote we are in trouble.

  3. jenny said:

    Come on now. I voted for Chahe. How arrogant can you be?

    Your candidate is SOOO much superior, that my candidate ran MERELY to divide the Armenian community? BS.

    Let’s think of it another way. Perhaps Nairi did the dividing. I’ll stop here. I’m disgusted with my own thoughts, even though it’s pure imitation.

    And I will be voting for Greg, but no need for this nonsense about Chahe. He’s done great things for the Armenian community.

  4. Simon Bedrosyan said:

    Correct: Chahe DOES have a certain following…almost all of them Armenian. That is not sufficient in an Assembly race. Nayiri had a long list of non-Armenian Democrats and non-Armenian liberal and moderate organizations who endorsed her. She had more across-the-boad support than Mike Gatto. She would have defeated Gatto in a head-to-head battle. Chahe would have loss in a similar head-to-head battle. No honest person thinks otherwise.

    The fact that Chahe announce his candidacy three weeks before Nayri is laughable. That’s not how it works. If two hopeless candidates announce for Glendale City Council right now, should everyone else step aside? Chahe, as an Assembly candidate was and is a hopeless candidate. Not everyone with a TV show on Armenian TV is electable…as the voters become more and more diverse. City Council? He has a chance…but Assembly, State Senate or Congress………not in a million years.

    Garen Yegparian is 100 percent correct. Chahe screwed the Armenian Community by giving us Gatto…and…now…Gatto is screwing most of the Armenians. Good job, Chahe.