Flatlining Primary?

Garen Yegparian


June 3 is the date of California’s Primary elections. Predictions are that turnout will be very low. This means that if our community votes in larger proportion than the rest of the electorate, our preferred candidates will do relatively better. Be sure to cast your vote.

Let’s get down to the endorsements.

The ANCA has already come out with its endorsements, and I largely agree with the choices there. But because of a policy of selective endorsement in the primary, not every office on the ballot is covered there. Hopefully, the information in this article will be helpful, particularly for statewide and judicial candidates.

Perhaps the most important election from an Armenian community perspective is the one for a seat on the Glendale City Council. This one obviously applies only to Glendale residents. So if you live in Glendale, make sure you work your way to the very end of the ballot where you will find the candidates listed. You might remember that this unusual election is occurring because last year, Rafi Manoukian got elected as Glendale City Treasurer. This set off a chain reaction. He had to give up his seat on the Glendale City Council. The council then had two choices and opted to appoint a replacement to save money. But this forced another election to be held, which is the one we’re discussing now. There are five candidates vying for this one seat. Vartan Gharpetian is the person to vote for. It is important he get elected. Please vote for him. Unfortunately, his prospects are hurt by the participation of Chahe Keuroghelian running yet again, refusing to recognize that he is, for all intents and purposes, unelectable. The only thing Chahe can do is decrease other people’s chances of winning. It’s really too bad. Also, to avoid this kind of chain reaction election in the future, Charter Amendment G is proposed, which is worth voting “yes” on.

From here on, I will follow the order of candidates as you will find them on your ballot starting with statewide offices. Many of these are no-brainers, because of incumbency, competence, or history with our community. I’ll just list my recommendations with the briefest of rationales, and delve more deeply into the few that require it. Governor—Jerry Brown, long positive history with our community, and an incumbent who may win by record-breaking percentages; Lieutenant Governor—Gavin Newsom, very quiet position, incumbent, decent connection with our community; Secretary of State—Alex Padilla, see below for details; Controller—Betty Yee, see below for details; Treasurer—John Chiang, incumbent, has a strong backbone (he’s the one who withheld legislators’ pay because they didn’t complete the budget on time); Attorney General—Kamala Harris, incumbent, strong on pursuing restitution from the banks which hurt so many people by causing the mortgage crisis; Insurance Commissioner—Dave Jones, incumbent; State Board of Equalization (3rd District)—Jerome Horton, incumbent running unopposed.

The difficulty in choosing the candidate for Secretary of State comes from (happily) an abundance of pretty good choices. In addition to Padilla, the candidate I recommended, Derek Cressman, Pete Peterson, and Dan Schnur all bring good, relevant, experience to the electoral fray for a very important position charged with overseeing elections and business-related filings. Cressman comes from an elections-advocacy background, but is polling poorly and lacks the insider’s grasp of working with the legislature. Peterson is an academic, but he too lacks the insider’s grasp of working with the legislature. Schnur has the insider’s grasp of working with the legislature, but has been away from it for two decades and is polling poorly. Padilla, brings all these ingredients together.

For Controller, there are three viable candidates. One, Ashley Swearingin, is the Mayor of Fresno who has been involved with fighting her own constituents in costly legal battles designed to prevent a ballot measure from making it to the voters. This is not the type of person I want overseeing something as important to democracy as elections. Another, John Perez, is the current Speaker of the State Assembly. He doesn’t seem to be getting the traction with the public, much like one of his predecessors as Speaker, Cruz Bustamante, whose political career fizzled after his stint in that position. Betty Yee is probably the most qualified for the position given that she currently serving as a member of the California Board of Equalization, hence my recommendation.

For the House of Representatives, the ANCA’s endorsements cover most of the areas where many Armenians live. Abutting those zones and worthy of your vote if you live in their districts are Julia Brownley in Congressional District (CD) 26, Xavier Becerra in CD-34, Karen Bass in CD-37, Lucille Roybal-Allard in CD-40, and Maxine Waters in CD-43. For the State Senate and Assembly, other than a hearty emphasis on voting for our “hometown favorites” Assemblymembers Adrin Nazarian (D – AD-46) and Katcho Achadjian (AD-35), I only have a cautionary note to add to the ANCA’s endorsements. In Senate District 26, a number of strong candidates are running, among them Betsy Butler whose contact with one of the Gulen front organizations concerns me. I am not convinced she has grasped how problematic those groups are, so I am very leery of empowering her with elective office.

Now we get to one of the most difficult categories, the judges. For this, the best I can do is refer you to the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s report about the qualifications of each of the candidates. No doubt similar reports are produced in other counties which you can find on the respective bar associations’ websites. I have a strong recommendation from a very civically aware and involved compatriot to vote for Pamala F. Matsumoto for Office 22. Otherwise, please see the accompanying table showing the candidates’ ratings for guidance on whom to cast your vote for.

LA County Bar Association evaluation of Superior Court judge candidates

Oddly, the candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction are listed after the judges, and not with the other statewide offices. Here, vote for incumbent Tom Torlakson who has a respectable record of public service.

Moving to the LA County offices, the ANCA has endorsed Jeffrey Prang for Assessor. I’ll add Jim McDonnell as the person to vote for as our new Sheriff. There is a lot of experience among the candidates for that office. But given some of the difficulties faced by the Sheriff’s department, the fact that McDonnell is coming from outside the department (he’s the Long Beach Police Chief) is a major asset. I’ve seen this sort of thing play out with our Burbank police department where years of turmoil and inappropriate (at best) behavior finally started getting remedied with the hiring of our current chief (and Burbank ANCA William Saroyan Award Winner) Scott LaChase from LAPD. The race to replace term-limited Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky in a district straddling the Santa Monica mountains to include parts of the West Side and the San Fernando Valley is a tough one, and, with apologies, I’ll have to leave those of you living in the district on your own.

Finally, there are two ballot measures. I recommend voting “yes” on both. Proposition 41 provides funding to assist veterans through the issuance of bonds. Proposition 42 clarifies that all government agencies must comply with open records laws— this became an issue because some local agencies were arguing that if the state didn’t pay for the costs of providing citizens with this information, then they were not bound to comply with these laws!

Remember, VOTE, VOTE, VOTE! Our community’s political relevance depends on your doing so. We’ll talk elections again after these primaries and again before the general election in November.


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