BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
The Armenian communities of Burbank, Glendale, and parts of Los Angeles face an important challenge. On April 13, a special election will be held to fill the vacancy created when Paul Krekorian was sworn in to his new position as a member of the Los Angeles City Council.
This seat is the 43rd Assembly District of the State of California. It includes more Armenians than any jurisdiction outside of Armenia. By any measure, it is seen as an “Armenian district,” not only by us, but by those who watch from on high to see what communities and constituencies are well organized and stand up for their rights and interests.
Simply, we must elect someone who truly represents our interests in this high office. Otherwise, many, many of our interests, at all levels—local, state, federal—will suffer. Our ability to elect the right people in Glendale to protect our huge community in that city will suffer. Our California-wide efforts to broaden the range of school districts teaching the Armenian Genocide will be impacted. Aid to Armenia and Karabakh will suffer. Why? Because those in power will smirk and think, “Those Armenians can’t even get their act together enough to elect one of their own in a district they should own! No need to worry about what they can do!”
This special election will have very long-term and broad significance. We must all unite behind a single candidate. In the future, this person could be a non-Armenian. But for now, he/she must be a child of our community, one of our best, most talented, educated, experienced, and most importantly— ELECTABLE. This race must not be confused with a Glendale local, municipal, election. No candidate for the 43rd Assembly seat can get elected exclusively on the strength (great though it is) of Armenian voters alone. This candidate must have broad appeal.
In theory, someone could get elected on April 13 by garnering more than 50 percent of the votes. Realistically, because a large number of candidates will throw their hats in the ring, scattering the vote, the winners from each party— Democratic, Republican, Green, Libertarian, etc. —will advance to a runoff election scheduled for June. For those who remember what has happened in the last three Glendale municipal elections, it should be immediately obvious why our community must coalesce behind a single, strong candidate. Anyone bucking this absolute necessity must be admonished, gently at first, but more forcefully if needed, that we cannot afford personal agendas damaging our collective interests.
But, it won’t necessarily be easy to create this consensus. Obviously, everyone has to agree to our candidate’s competence and electability. That’s fairly straightforward. But, we are not functioning in a vacuum. There are others who want to win this seat. That’s natural. It’s also quite reasonable to expect they’ll resort to dirty tricks. The most effective of these tricks is to find one or more Armenians who, though utterly unelectable, can be convinced to put forth their candidacy. The political forces opposed to us will bribe such individuals with promises of personal gain or positions of influence and power. They’ll do whatever it takes. The intent is, of course, to split the Armenian vote, causing our community’s candidate to lose. And, we don’t even need to postulate that this kind of gamesmanship is going on. Anonymous sources have already reported that IT IS. We can’t allow this to happen.
Our long term growth as a politically viable and effective community rides on victory in this race. If we blow it, we’ll be set back a generation. Not only will politicos not take us seriously, but we’ll also give up our seat at the table of redistricting which will be done in 2011 after the Census 2010 results are tabulated. How district lines are drawn effects who gets elected within a district. Maintaining a strong and active electorate is very important for all the reasons mentioned above.
Beyond the selection of our candidate, we must work, very hard. It will be a short (barely three months long) but arduous campaign. How do we win this campaign? It’s not anything we haven’t done before. There’s nothing new. We will get organized. We will raise money. We will register new voters. Most importantly, we will exercise our right, perform our civic duty, and VOTE for OUR candidate.