BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Currently, there are at least 28 Armenians running for office in the November U.S. election this year. These offices range from city councilmember to state level constitutional office. Some of them have not even gotten past their states’ primaries yet. Some are incumbents. Some may be “Armenian” by marriage only while others may have a mixed heritage. Some may be running against friends/supporters of our issues. Some may be totally delusional candidacies.
I don’t know, and have not even met, most of these compatriots who have been bold, tough, and politically motivated enough to throw their hats into their respective rings. They will likely be buffeted by some pretty harsh clashes. But that’s what’s necessary.
The other thing that’s necessary is having an ongoingly updated compilation of these brave souls so support and advice can be offered whenever possible and appropriate. Plus, it can serve as yet another basis of developing our political power, a resource for the candidates to pick one anothers’ brains for suggestions and ideas. Since this piece will be read bicoastally, I should point out that many western states’ local elections are NOT held the first Tuesday in November as is the case for the most part in the eastern states. This is why the list will be in constant need of updating.
I should thank the ANCA’s Eastern, Western, and DC offices for helping me compile this list. That’s all this article will be, a list. Some of the names and places may surprise you. Hopefully, it will serve to inspire others to take the same leap. Please remember as you read on, this is an imperfect list, and any gaps should be filled in by you.
As you might expect, California has the largest number, six, of Armenians running for office (with over half of our U.S. community living in this state, hardly a shocker). Two members of Congress, Ana Eshoo and Jackie Speier are up for reelection as is State Assemblymember Khacho Achadjian. We have three others seeking their offices for the first time: Adrin Nazarian and Greg Krikorian (the latter is key and will be the subject of the next article in this election series) are seeking election to the State Assembly and Richelle Noroian is going for a seat on the Santa Cruz City Council.
We have three states, all in New England, “tied” for the next highest number of candidates at four: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. James Miceli and John Fresolo are running for State House of Representatives, Stephen Simonian for State Senate, and Peter Koutoujian for Middlesex County Sheriff in Massachusetts. I suspect there are more given the size and age of our community in the state, but this is what I’ve got so far. Mary Beth Ayvazian, Gary Azarian, Charlene Takesian, and Kelly Upham-Torosian are all running for the State House of Representatives in New Hampshire. Not only is this an impressive showing for a state where we have a very small community, but imagine if all of them get elected to the same chamber of the legislature! (Although it turns out this body consists of 375 to 400 members). Jared Nunes and Katherine Kazarian are running for the state House of Representatives, Aram Garabedian for State Senate, and Scott Avedissian for Mayor of Warwick in Rhode Island. This is also an impressive showing in a small state with a vibrant Armenian community.
All the other states that sport Armenian candidates this year have only one. In the West, Oregon has Brad Avakian running for reelection as State Labor Commissioner. You will probably remember he just made an unsuccessful effort to get elected to Congress, but didn’t get past his primary. Another name you’ve probably already heard is Danny Tarkanian who beat eight opponents in his Nevada Republican primary and is well positioned to get sent to D.C. A surprise state is Idaho, where Al Shoustarian is running for State Senate. Finally, we have Linda Arzoumanian running for reelection as Pima County, Arizona’s School Superintendent. This one is particularly interesting because the Gulen movement’s efforts to start charter schools have been blocked in this jurisdiction. And, after 16 years in office, Arzoumanian is now being challenged by someone from her own party. One is tempted to wonder if there’s a connection.
In the East, Greg Dirdilian is running for the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan. Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where any community of interest would be confronted with a tough choice: one of its own running against a long time supporter of its issues (in this case, the incumbent Sander Levin). Tim Kapucian seems to be assured of reelection to the Iowa State Senate. In Kentucky, Minnesota, and New York, we have Mary Lou Marzian, King Banaian, and Paul Saryian, respectively, running for the lower house of the legislature of their state. Marzian and Banaian are incumbents. And, one city council candidacy by an Armenian is under way, in Richmond, Virginia— Charles Diradour.
I invite and urge you to explore these candidacies, and support them as appropriate. Also if you are a candidate for office, or know one, or know someone who knows one, please, let the ANCA know, so a list of Armenian candidates and, later, office holders can be compiled.