“My passion for public service started when I was a boy scout of the Homenetmen Armenian Athletic and Scouting Organization. My sense of community was also reinforced by my active involvement in my church.”
On September 14th, 13 Democratic candidates are vying for an open-seat in the Maryland State Assembly’s 16th district primary. Nanor Mahdessian sat down with Hrant Jamgochian to discuss his candidacy, his recent endorsements by the Washington Post and Maryland Gazette, and the prospect of becoming the first Armenian American in the Maryland State Legislature.
To learn more about or support Jamgochian’s candidacy, visit: http://www.gojamgo.com
Nanor Mahdessian (NM): On September 1, the Gazette writes, “Hrant Jamgochian, health policy director for United Way Worldwide, also possesses timely expertise. His knowledge of the recent national health care overhaul could help bring more federal dollars and assistance to Maryland.” Not only do you have Washington Post on your side, but also Gazette. What does this mean to you?
Hrant Jamgochian (HJ): The Washington Post endorsement was amazing and really provided a tremendous bounce for my campaign. The Gazette endorsement only builds on my campaign’s momentum. The Washington Post is a well-known newspaper across the country and in our district [District 16]. At the same time the Gazette is a really good local paper that is widely read, which brings additional enthusiasm to the campaign. The most important endorsement however, is that of the voters in my district, many of whom are following the race as closely as these two media outlets.
NM: One of your priorities has been Health Care, as member-elect, how would you approach this issue?
HJ: I am extremely passionate about health. I have spent most of my career working to improve patient access to health care, and currently serve as the director of health care policy at United Way Worldwide. I want to make sure that Marylanders take advantage of the new Health Care reform law, much of which will be implemented at state level. First, I will work to ensure that insurance is affordable, by making sure that our exchange is strong when Marylanders who purchase insurance outside of their employers’ plans. Second, state oversight of insurance will be important to help ensure we start to see some of the savings envisioned in the new law. Third, we need to connect patients to care, educating them about the many new benefits included in the new law, which are designed to shift our system of “sick care” to one which prioritizes keeping us healthy. There is still much in the new law that is yet to be determined, so it will be critical to elect policy makers with a strong understanding of how our health care system works and the steps we need to take to further improve it while preserving the best it has to offer.
NM: What about the other important agenda items on your campaign, such as the economy and education?
HJ: We need to prioritize our economy. It all starts here. If we want to address our budget deficit we need to grow our tax base, which means getting people back to work, which in turn provides the critical resources we need to protect the most vulnerable in our population. First, we need to ensure that business have access to the capital they need, which starts with us streamlining the application process for small business loans. Next, we need to increase incentives to attract new industries like high paying “green jobs.” Finally, we need to leverage federal resources and knowledge to ensure that business and government are partners not adversaries as both benefit from our shared success.
When it comes to education, I appreciate the importance of a good education, which is why I’m the only candidate who has a post-graduate degree. Education has opened many doors in my professional career and I want to ensure everyone in my district has the same opportunities. That starts by addressing the overcrowding in our public school system, ensuring teacher accountability and also prioritizing STEM education [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education] at every level.
NM: How has your Armenian background influenced your policies?
HJ: My passion for public service started when I was a boy scout of the Homenetmen Armenian Athletic and Scouting Organization. My sense of community was also reinforced by my active involvement in my church. As a result, I went into a career in the non-profit sector working to make a difference. I have also remained active in the Armenian community and I am fortunate to have such strong support. Of course, my candidacy is much more than just me. I plan to represent everyone in my district and hope to encourage others towards public service as well. If elected, I will be the first Armenian American to serve in the Maryland General Assembly, but hope to be known for the policies that I help to advance to improve the lives of everyone in our state.
NM: The election is in less than a week, what do you want to tell the voters?
HJ: I would like to point out that every vote counts, especially in a race with 13 candidates. Please do not underestimate the impact you can have, especially in a race like this. We have a lot of challenges in our state, so we need to elect candidates who have the experience and leadership in addressing complex problems, which is why I received such strong endorsements from The Washington Post and The Gazette. Therefore, even if you do not live in my district, but know friends who do, make sure you tell them to vote on Tuesday, September 14 and let them know why they should support my candidacy. While we are only a few days away from the primary election, many of the individuals in my district are still making-up their minds, so don’t wait. Call your friends and family today. In a race that could be decided by a handful of votes your efforts could be the difference.