In 10 days, voters in the 43rd Assembly district will go to the polls to elect a new member of the California State Assembly. The Armenian National Committee-Political Action Committee endorsed the candidacy of Glendale Unified School District Board membe Nayiri Nahabedian early on in the campaign. Asbarez touched base with ANC-PAC’s Romina DerBedrossian, who discussed the impetus for the organization’s endorsement and the current stage of the campaign. Below is the interview.
Asbarez: The ANC-PAC has endorsed Nayiri Nahabedian for the Assembly District that used to be represented by Paul Krekorian. Why do you recommend that our readers vote for Nayiri Nahabedian?
Romina DerBedrossian: As you are aware, the ANC-PAC has for more than 30 years helped elect people to public office who best represent the interests of the Armenian Community and support the Armenian Cause. Our role has been to provide guidance to Armenian-American registered voters on which candidate will best represent the community’s interests. Our recommendations have not only helped voters decide between candidates, but they have also guided campaign volunteers and donations from community members.
We have endorsed Nayiri Nahabedian because of her outstanding record of service to the community, her record as a Glendale Unified School District Board member, her stance on issues of concern to the Armenian community and residents of the Assembly District, her ability to gain the support of other major groups representing constituents in the 43rd Assembly District, her ability to raise funds to communicate her message to voters, and the experience of her campaign team.
Asbarez: How did you determine to endorse Nayiri Nahabedian?
R.DB.: We evaluated candidates on three categories: issues, past record, and electability. We looked at what was the candidates stance on issues related to Hye Tad, Armenian rights, and the Armenian Community. Second, we looked at the candidate’s record on these issues and his/her degree of participation with the Armenian Community. Finally, we looked at the candidate’s electability. In other words, the chances for the candidate to be elected. In this category, we looked at support from other groups or individuals, experience of the campaign team with elections in the area, and availability of financial and non-financial resources to communicate with voters.
Based on our evaluation of all four candidates on issues, record, and electability, we recommended the election of Nayiri Nahabedian to the state Assembly seat vacated after Paul Krekorian was elected to the Los Angeles City Council.
Asbarez: So your endorsement tells people who you believe is better for Hye Tad and for the interests of the Armenian community but it does not force people to vote for one candidate or another. Do all members of the community follow your recommendation or endorsement?
R.DB.: Community members for whom the just resolution of Hye Tad and the protection of Armenian rights are important, the ANC-PAC endorsement helps guide their decision on whom to support and how to vote.
Asbarez: I understand why community members would look for your guidance on whom to elect to the United States Congress, but why do you make recommendations in elections for local office or the State legislature?
R.DB.: Excellent question! There are three reasons. First, the actions of individuals elected to local and state office influence the decisions of members of Congress. Second, these individuals elected to local and state government positions become the future candidates for Congress, the White House, and federal government positions such as Secretaries of State.
As our community has grown in size within a particular geographic area such as Glendale, Burbank, North Hollywood, Hollywood or as a matter of fact the entire state of California, our decision making process has had to take into consideration the candidate’s stance on issues that affect the lives of people living in the region. This is the third reason for making recommendations on elections for City Council, School Boards, and the State Legislature.
In this particular race, we also took into consideration the candidate’s approach to resolving the State’s budget deficit as well as issues affecting the economy, job creation, the environment, education, and health care.
Asbarez: One of the candidates and his supporters has accused you of trying to pressure him to withdraw from the race. Is this true?
R.DB.: This is absolutely false. Out of respect for both Armenian-American candidates and their supporters, we spoke with both of them to prevent a contest that would divide the Armenian Community support and result in a loss for both of them. Result in a loss for the Armenian Community. Result in renewed tensions within the Armenian Community. Result in new frictions between the Armenian and non-Armenian communities. We wanted to avoid this situation and urged both candidates to consider their decision carefully and not enter the race.
Both candidates and their inner circle of supporters did not agree with us and decided to seek election to the 43rd Assembly District. When the filing period for office closed on March 1 and the decision of the candidates to run was final, the ANC-PAC concluded that Nayiri Nahabedian had the better chance of being elected and decided to support her candidacy.
Asbarez: This candidate has also accused you of having something to do with the mail pieces by Nayiri Nahabedian bringing to light his conviction record. I understand that the ANC-PAC has issued a statement against negative campaigning. Can you please elaborate on this?
R.DB.: Our statement very clearly stated that negative campaigns are harmful to the Armenian Community. They cause greater tension. They result in people deciding not to vote. We are only 16% of the registered voters of the 43rd Assembly District. We cannot elect a person who will be a champion for issues that concern our community if we divide our vote. More importantly we do not win as a community, if we encourage unfounded accusations and attacks on a candidate or organization.
Asbarez: It is for this reason that we have criticized the unfounded claims against our organization by Chahe Keuroghelian and his supporters as well as the negative campaigning waged by Chahe Keuroghelian, Nayiri Nahabedian, and Mik Gatto.
Asbarez: You noted that Armenians make up only 16% of the registered voters in the 43rd Assembly District. Can you give us some historical background on voting trends in the Armenian community and what kind of a response we should expect in this race?
R.DB.: Best example would be the past several elections in the City of Glendale. We have roughly 85,000 Armenian-Americans who reside in the city of which about 25,000 are registered to vote and only 10-12,000 actually participate. Now, 10,000 votes, just from the Armenian community is more than enough to get elected, if and only if there are as many Armenian-American candidates as there are seats available in that particular election.
For the past three election cycles we’ve unfortunately witnessed a new reality, where too many Armenian-Americans compete for the same seat, the Armenian community vote splits and we as a community lose. Looking at the 2009 Glendale munici
pal elections, we had 3 city council seats up for re-election and 7 Armenian-American candidates. Most of these candidates did not have the needed support base and the financial resources that could potentially carry them to victory. Each of them took a couple of thousand votes, some even in the 100s making it impossible for another Armenian-American candidate who had the chance to get elected.
Asbarez: How does this relate to the race for the 43rd Assembly District?
R.DB.: We have the same situation in this race—one seat, two Armenian-American candidates.
This is why the Armenian community needs to choose between the candidate who has a chance to win and the one that does not.
Nayiri Nahabedian has what it takes to win this race. She has both Armenian and non-Armenian support, a proven track record, the financial resources as well as the support and backing of major non-Armenian organizations and elected officials.
Mr. Keeroghelian, on the other hand, has ran and lost 3 times for Glendale City Council. The voters need to understand that it takes much more to win a state assembly race than a Glendale City Council one. While Mr. Keuroghelian has a strong Armenian support base, that’s as far as it goes and it’s not enough to get elected in a district where we are only 16 percent of the voters.
In order to win, we as a community need to unite behind an electable candidate and that candidate is Nayiri Nahabedian.