BY BERDJ KARAPETIAN
Last Tuesday evening, I watched a paid program by an Armenian candidate on an Armenian channel and wondered if the April 13 Special election to fill the State Assembly seat vacated by Paul Krekorian would result in a victory for the Armenian Community of the District.
As I watched a somber looking candidate allow caller after caller restate and amplify messages of hate and division within the Armenian Community, the question about the community winning on April 13 began to disturb me more and more.
I needed to do something. We had seen this happen in elections in Glendale. I recalled that in prior elections negative messages within our community became more and more vicious. Our competitors siezed the opportunity and division to win more seats on the Glendale City Council. The outcome of the efforts to divide Armenian voters and our community was a decrease in the number of councilmembers of Armenian descent from three to one. Our community’s influence and clout declined.
As these thoughts of what happened in Glendale during the past two election cycles began to bother me more and more, I realized that our competitors had figured out how to beat us.
Divide and conquer.
We were making it easy for them to win. All they had to do was encourage more than one candidate of Armenian descent to run for each seat. These candidates would not only split our community’s votes, but they would reduce Armenian turn-out by spreading negative messages within the community. They would sow confusion and disagreement, pitting one Armenian voter against another.
As my wife, daughter and I watched caller after caller twist the truth with the candidate nodding his head in approval, we could not help but feel helpless and angry. My wife asked, “Don’t they realize what they are doing?” Perhaps the callers don’t realize what they are doing, but those who will benefit from the division are counting on it’s continuation and growth.
Now that there are two Armenian Democrats and one non-Armenian Democrat trying to win the most votes to proceed to the June 8 run-off or, possibly, get elected on April 13, it is too late to prevent those who want to divide our votes from succeeding.
Community organizations and leaders will urge us to vote for the candidate of Armenian descent with the best chance to win. I am sure they will point out that both candidates are descent individuals with histories of service to Armenian youth, elderly, and the Armenian Cause. I am sure they will tell us that any candidate of Armenian descent cannot win with just Armenian community votes.
Why? Because obviously a candidate cannot win by counting on just 16 percent of the registered voters. That’s the percentage who are Armenian-Americans. The fact that a candidate cannot just rely on Armenian votes becomes even more obvious when there are two of them in a three person race.
However, we can overcome this disadvantage and help our community win. No matter who gets elected our community can win by producing an unexpectedly large turn-out for the April 13 Special Election. Our competitors will realize that dividing our community will no longer work. They will realize that this time we did not let negative messages keep us from voting. They will realize that we will not let them confuse us and dissuade us from exercising our right. They will realize that our community can win.
In the coming weeks, I and a handful of other ANC volunteers will share with you our thoughts on what we can do to get a very large number of Armenians to vote and make sure that our community wins.