Sassounian’s column of Oct. 26, 2006
By Harut Sassounian Publisher, The California Courier
The Congressional elections on November 7 could be a turning point for all Americans, particularly on the issue of the war in Iraq, should the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate, come under the control of the Democrats.
For Armenian Americans, the upcoming elections could finally provide the opportunity they have been waiting for to remove the chokehold placed by the Bush Administration and the Republican leadership on the consideration of House and Senate resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Both Houses of Congress would have voted in overwhelming majorities to approve these resolutions if Republican congressional leaders had allowed the people’s representatives to vote their conscience on these bills.
For the House races, it is in the interest of Armenian Americans to vote for those candidates who are either members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues or have pledged to join it after the election. Voters may contact Armenian lobbying organizations in Washington before Nov. 7, to check the affiliations of the congressional candidates in their districts. In case neither candidate in a particular race is a member of the Caucus or a supporter of Armenian issues, the preference should be given to the Democrat in order to assure a Democratic majority in the House. Cong. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), a long time friend of the Armenian community, would then become Speaker of the House, replacing Cong. Dennis Hastert, who not only has broken his pledge repeatedly, but has actively blocked the Armenian Genocide resolution from being brought to a floor vote. Given her long-standing record on Armenian issues, it is anticipated that Cong. Pelosi, should she become Speaker, would schedule a vote on the Genocide resolution.
Rather than trying to rate thousands of candidates nationwide for 435 House, 34 Senatorial and countless local and state races, I will focus on a few critical and close ones.
It goes without saying that Armenians should help re-elect the two members of Congress who are of Armenian origin : Cong. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and John Sweeney (R-NY). Armenians should also vote for State Senator Chuck Poochigian, a Republican, who is running for Attorney General of California. He is engaged in a tough battle against former governor Jerry Brown who has an advantage in terms of name recognition. Paul Krekorian, a Democrat, is expected to easily win a seat in the California State Assembly.
Also deserving the Armenian community’s support is Danny Tarkanian, the son of legendary basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, who is running for Secretary of State in Nevada.
The co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues deserve the community’s special support. Fortunately, Cong. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) is expected to get re-elected easily. The other co-chair, Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), is involved in a tough race. A recent poll shows him in a statistical tie with his opponent. It is critical that the Armenian community nationwide come to his support financially as well as with votes from those who live in his district. Even though this goes against the earlier expressed desire of seeking a Democratic majority in the House, the community cannot and should not abandon its staunch supporters, be they Democrats or Republicans. By assuring that the co-chairs, the current members of the Caucus, and new members who will join the Caucus get elected, it is hoped that the Caucus would have at least 218 members of Congress from both parties which would constitute a majority of the House.
Turning to the U.S. Senate, the key Senator that should be supported at all cost is Robert Menendez (D-NJ) who placed a hold on the nomination of Richard Hoagland, the Ambassador Designate for Armenia. Sen. Menendez is in a difficult race as he was appointed to that seat by Gov. Jon Corzine, just 10 months ago, after Corzine stepped down from his Senate seat. Menendez is opposed by Republican Thomas Kean, Jr., an incumbent state senator and son of former Governor Thomas Kean. The latest poll shows Menendez with a slim advantage over Kean. The State Department would like nothing more than seeing Menendez lose his seat, as that would vacate the hold against Hoagland next January. The Armenian community nationwide, and particularly those residing in New Jersey, should do everything possible to secure the re-election of Sen. Menendez.
On Nov. 7, members of the Armenian American community should vote for all those candidates, regardless of their party affiliation, who are supportive of Armenian issues. In the case of equally supportive candidates in a particular race, the preference should be given to the one who is a Democrat in order to secure a Democratic majority in the House, helping make Cong. Pelosi the next Speaker, which will enable her to schedule a long overdue vote on the Armenian Genocide resolution.
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