BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
The June 5th Presidential Primary Election turned out to be quite interesting. Since much has already been written about them, I’ll spare you my extended commentary about the effects and results of two new factors in California politics: the “top two” primary system and redistricting by a citizen commission. As a result, the November General Election will also produce some novelties. There are also other factors countrywide that will contribute to the mix.
From an Armenian perspective, the two main races were for the top two positions in the 43rd and 46th California State Assembly districts. Also, Danny Tarkanian won his Republican primary in Nevada’s 4th Congressional district, which bodes well for adding another strong voice to advocate Armenian issues in Congress starting next year. Please see the attached table for the results of the races in which I made recommendations. I must here issue an apology to Khatcho Achadjian who was running for reelection to his 35th California Assembly district seat. He is such a strong candidate, but living outside of heavily Armenian areas, that I fell victim to a ghetto mentality and neglected to include him in my recommendations.
The first of “THE TWO” races is in California’s 43rd Assembly district. This district, as reconfigured by the post-2011 Census redistricting process, includes some of the biggest Armenian communities in the LA basin: Atwater, Burbank, Crescenta Valley (partially), Glendale, and Hollywood, all of which have respectable concentrations of Armenians. Here we have Greg Krikorian and Mike Gatto. The latter won the seat after a nasty campaign a little over two years ago. You might remember that campaign, where Nayiri Nahabedian, the main candidate supported by the Armenian community, was undercut by another Armenian running. For many people, who are convinced that was no accident, the latter was recruited by the Gatto camp to split the Armenian vote, which was probably the only way he could win.
This time, to avoid a replay of that scenario, Greg played his cards very close to the chest and didn’t announce his candidacy until very close to the deadline, making it extremely difficult to find a spoiler on such short notice. Of course this also hurt a little on the fundraising and publicity fronts because it meant a late start, but that will be made up between now and November. This will be a very important test for our community since Gatto has not performed amicably (even though it might appear he did because of his perfunctory actions) towards this part of his constituency. There is much to write about this race, but it will come out over the next few months.
The second of “THE TWO” races is in California’s 46th Assembly district. This one is where the new top two system had a major impact. Six candidates were vying to get past the primary election in this predominantly Democratic registration district. Adrin Nazarian, familiar to many as Paul Krekorian’s chief of staff and before that a campaign organizer for other candidates, came out on top with 11,083 votes (27.3%). But, second place has been too close to call. It has flipped between Brian Johnson and Jay Stern.
If Johnson (currently with 8145 votes, 20.1%), a Democrat, comes in second, Adrin will face a bloody, ugly campaign. Huge sums of money were spent in the form of “independent expenditures” on behalf of Johnson by organizations advocating charter schools. The amount exceeded what ALL THE CANDIDATES TOGETHER spent on the campaign. A lot of what that money bought was negative advertising, sometimes even crossing the line into what might well be called racism. One of the hit pieces directed against Adrin was a mailer showing a bald guy with a big nose, hairy armpits, and a mustache (Armenian stereotypes). Clearly, it was appealing to the basest instincts among voters.
If Stern (currently with 8175 votes, 20.1%), a Republican comes in second, the campaign will be far less challenging since, as I noted above, this is a heavily Democratic district. As of this writing, Stern is 30 votes ahead of Johnson with less than 2000 votes left to count (these are ballots that were cast provisionally, were damaged, were absentees that arrived on election day, or were not counted on election day for some other reason). There is good reason for optimism at this point, i.e. that Stern will beat Johnson for second place, but it’s not over yet. This demonstrates the importance of EVERY VOTE. “My vote doesn’t matter,” as an argument utterly collapses when faced with this reality.
Another bloody campaign has been in the 30th Congressional district, the “ermans” race. Here, two supporters of Armenian issues, both Democrats, have gone for each others’ throats. Brad Sherman came out ahead in the primary, currently with 39,689 votes (42.4%), to Howard Berman’s 30,425 votes (32.5%). But 20,903 votes (22.3%) were divided among three Republican candidates. Conventional wisdom has it that this segment of the electorate is more likely to support Berman, which means he would win in November. But, this is a simplistic analysis and how the ermans conduct their campaign until the general election may well have an impact on how people vote. It will be very intense.
As a sample of how intense, here’s a story. I was volunteering for Adrin campaign. Parts of that Assembly district overlap with the ermans’ Congressional district, meaning voters in that overlapping area were getting bombarded with campaign literature, calls, and door knockers. One person I spoke to was so tired of it all that he said, in all seriousness, “you’ll just have to call me after the election”.
But these won’t be the only hot issues in November’s election. There will be a large number of propositions for Californians to vote on. In other states, divisive ballot measures addressing ‘wedge” issues will be put to the electorate, often cynically, just to drive up voter turnout on whichever end of the political spectrum that issue is important to. The political climate will also be VERY hot in Wisconsin where the union-busting Republican governor just survived a recall election but lost his State Senate majority to the Democrats because a Republican senator was ousted and replaced by a Democrat. The conflict over this governor’s unconscionable policies has been going on since early 2011.
Sadly, there is already an effort underway in Florida to allegedly “clean up the voter rolls”. This is right-wing speak for “disenfranchise”. Usually poorer, or otherwise Democratic leaning, segments of the voting public are targeted. Florida did the same thing in 2000, at least partially leading to Bush’s election. Luckily, they haven’t been as successful this time because their vile actions are being watched more closely. But Republicans aren’t the only ones who engage in this loathsome practice. See “Solution Seeking Problem” in the November 17 issue of Asbarez to learn about what Mike Gatto, a Democrat, did.
Above everything else, please set aside enough time on November sixth to vote, or do it by mail beforehand.