BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Since early 2012, we, as Armenians, have been in “elections mode”, especially those of us living in the U.S., and (arguably) more so those of us living in the Los Angeles area. Don’t think so? Here’s a list: the Republic of Armenia’s (RoA) parliamentary elections (Winter 2012), U.S. (presidential/other) Primary Elections (Winter/Spring/Summer 2012), U.S. (presidential/other) General Elections (November 2012), RoA presidential elections (Winter 2013), local elections—primary and general—in the Armenian areas of Los Angeles County (Winter/Spring 2013).
And now, it’s all winding down. The City of Los Angeles will hold its general election on May 21. This involves other cities as well since Los Angeles Unified School and Community College Districts (LAUSD & LACCD) extend beyond the city’s limits. With all this said, here are my recommendations or thoughts about each of the races many readers will be voting in.
The City of LA Mayor’s race is a tough call. On the two major fronts (Armenian and environmental) of importance to me, both Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel have been good. So I’m leaving this one up to you. There are strong supporters of both candidates in our community, and the race itself is currently a dead heat. Do some nosing around, you may find something that for you tips the balance in favor of one or the other. For City Attorney, I’d be voting for Mike Feuer over Carmen Trutanich, though from an Armenian perspective, it’s a close call. For City Controller, the candidates are Ron Galperin and Dennis Zine. I’m more familiar with Zine, who is Lebanese and close to our community. He gets my nod.
Three LA City Council members (Districts 1, 9, and 13) will be elected. These are runoff races, made necessary after the March 5 Primary Election because no candidate got more than 50% of the vote. There’s another seat (District 6, just vacated because that incumbent was elected to Congress), so it is technically a special election, but will probably end up producing a runoff. A sizeable Armenian population will be voting in this race, and my recommendation is Cindy Montanez. For Council District 1, I am going with the Sierra Club’s endorsement of Jose Gardea over Gil Cedillo. In the 9th, I will recommend Ana Cubas over Curren Price, based more than anything on my gut feeling about the candidates based on my reading and listening.
But Council District 13 is the biggie for the Armenian community, since it includes a sizeable portion (but not all thanks to last year’s unfortunate redistricting) of Hollywood. Here, the candidates are John Choi and Mitch O’Farrell. Both candidates have similar positions on the issues. They are both doing heavy outreach to the Armenian community, which is a very good sign. It means our votes are coveted and appreciated. Unfortunately, there has also been some ugliness in this competition. A gun seems to have been pulled by partisans of one camp against the other. There is also constant tension between them as Armenian neighborhoods are canvassed by the staff and volunteers of each campaign. The Sierra Club has endorsed Mitch, but the ANCA, John. In the context of the Armenian community, the ANCA’s choice is better, so I suggest you vote for John Choi.
For the one unresolved LAUSD seat—District 6, I do not have enough information to provide guidance. However, for the LACCD’s Seat 6, I STRONGLY recommend Nancy Pearlman. This is a woman who, despite strong odds against her, managed to get elected to this position. She has been the leading advocate of the green building policies implemented across the nine campuses in the college district, saving money in the long run while doing the right thing. Unfortunately, because of one vote, despite an otherwise stellar record, one of the unions representing some campus employees has targeted her. This is unjust. Please be sure to vote for her.
Of course, it’s not possible to speak of injustice and unpleasantness without transitioning to a discussion of the RoA’s elections. Almost three months later, the Europeans have come out with a report that, as Asbarez reported, gives mixed grades to the conduct of the February presidential election. But, focus on the discussion of the numbers, where Sarkissian is found to have fared far better in the precincts with anomalously high turnouts. Couple this with contemporaneous reports that these same precincts were the ones counted later, and you are left with the very real possibility that we had a stolen presidential election. And more recently, Yerevan’s city council (“Council of elders”) election was marred by irregularities, too. You have no doubt seen the reports of what was done at various polling places—the intimidation, vote buying, the thuggery, abuse of state power, and generally questionable behaviors by the authorities. There is only one way to remedy this—household by household, building by building, neighborhood by neighborhood, precinct by precinct, and finally electoral district by electoral district, the citizenry has to organize itself to elect ITS OWN REPRESENTATIVES, and not the handpicked puppet of some oligarch or government functionary.
With this said, I also must point out that some practices which are being condemned don’t seem so wrong to me. Rather, they are probably just good mobilization practices. The best example of this is the matter of having “lists” of voters. Why not? The trick in any election is to bring to the polls those who will vote the way “my” faction wants. In the same vein, there’s nothing wrong with giving people rides to the polling stations. Where that goes awry is if it’s done with government resources. We have a long way to go, with only one sure path to building a real democratic polity, the one I described above, one by one, grinding, grueling work though it may be. But the good news is, there is a sense I get from the eastern reaches of our homeland that citizens are coming around to saying “enough’s enough” and are starting to act like real citizens.
Don’t forget to vote, vote, vote, and get others to do so as well.