2012 Elections: The Armenian Factor

by Garen Yegparian

August 7, 2012

Currently, there are at least 28 Armenians running for office in
the November U.S. elections 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 continuously updated
compilation of these brave souls so that 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 another’s brains for suggestions and ideas.

Since this piece will be read bi-coastally, 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 D.C. 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 that 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 re-election as is State Assemblymember
Khacho Achadjian. We have three others seeking 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. In Massachusetts, James Miceli and John Fresolo are running
for State House of Representatives, Stephen Simonian for State Senate,
and Peter Koutoujian for Middlesex County sheriff. 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!

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 re-election
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 re-election as Pima County,
Az.’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 longtime supporter of its
issues (in this case, the incumbent Sander Levin). Tim Kapucian seems
to be assured of re-election 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,
Va.-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.