BY LEONARD MANOUKIAN
For a few weeks now, readers of this publication have read article after article addressing the upcoming special election to fill the seat left vacant by Paul Krekorian as the California Assembly Representative from the 43rd District. They have been reminded of the importance of having a member of the Armenian community being elected, have been informed as to who the candidates are, their strengths, qualities, and prospects for winning. Most important, from the vantage point of the various writers has been that the readers know who was considered to be the optimal candidate: Nayiri Nahabedian. With less than three weeks left in the special election campaign, and all things being equal, it would seem that from now to April 13th there should be nothing further to do but to keep repeating that message in order to reinforce it. But all things are not equal.
Since his campaign began, we have witnessed a steady stream of “commentary” from Mr. Chahe Keuroghlian relating to Ms. Nahabedian and her campaign. This commentary has had little to do with the facts and issues, has been personal and, unfortunately, has had a negative personal tone. (I will address Mr. Keuroghlian’s “commentary” regarding the ANC another time.) In the past few days, some of you have received, and most of you have heard about, a mailer sent out by the Nahabedian campaign which brought to light certain details of Mr. Keuroghlian’s life. It would seem that, though an election campaign begins with lofty idealism on all sides, it quickly degenerates into a pitched battle. As the campaign drags on, the days get longer, tempers become shorter, and judgment is, alas, the first casualty.
We are all disappointed that the candidates, who are by no means neophytes, have permitted what should be a dialogue to become name calling. We should not retreat to that trite old saw that “…it’s a shame that Armenians are their own worst enemies.” This is politics; the ultimate meritocracy. Again, let us not pretend that Ms. Nahabedian’s camp was the initiator of the current aggressions – she has been the target of personal attacks for weeks. However, her recent mail piece has escalated matters, distracting us all from the realities of this campaign.
Mr. Keuroghlian’s camp, no doubt, will attempt to cast the various comments disparaging
Ms. Nahabedian as valid “political” commentary. Suffice it to say that one man’s “commentary” is another’s insult. And please let us not have any finger pointing and complaining about who announced their candidacy earlier, this is a serious campaign for a serious office not a first-come first-served cafeteria.
So perhaps we need to re-focus on the task at hand, the community, community organizations and those who ask to be elected as the community’s “leaders.” Our candidates should be urged to reject negative campaigning and focus on increasing Armenian voter turnout. Our candidates should be urged to ask their supporters, or would be supporters, to vote for them because they will best represent the community, address its needs, and help solve its problems.
It is in our community’s interest for these campaigns to inform voters of their views on the issues and reject negative attacks against each other; negative campaigns drive down voter turn out, it is that simple. A candidate cannot win with Armenian votes alone. For their part, those who do not necessarily have our community’s best interests at heart know that a non-Armenian candidate cannot win without Armenian votes. It stands to reason, then, that a well qualified, well financed, Armenian- American candidate who enjoys a wide base of support among both Armenian and non-Armenian voters will certainly win the election in the 43rd Assembly District. Naturally, splitting our vote between two Armenian candidates decreases the chances of either one being elected. In this case, a low turn-out by Armenian voters compounds matters by helping a candidate who has no record of service to the Armenian community. However, a high turn out by Armenian voters could help overcome this split and give the Armenian candidate with the best support in the community at large the edge to win. This makes negative campaigning both unfortunate and counterproductive. What is worse, the biggest loser in a negative campaign will be the community.
Who will be the winner? Those who have followed the campaign in the recent days have seen a barrage of releases from the Gatto campaign pitting Ms. Nahabedian against Mr. Keuroghlian. Adding nothing to the substantive discussion, the Gatto campaign has become the (un)witting beneficiary of the struggle between the Nahabedian and Keuroghlian campaigns. If the core reasons for entry into this election race are forgotten by candidates, the only possible victor is a person who has no real interest in the community in the first instance – Mr. Gatto.
The ANC-PAC’s analysis of the candidates’ position on issues, record of service, campaign resources and support from the non-Armenian community resulted in an endorsement of Nayiri Nahabedian. That conclusion stands. She has the better chance of winning and the ANC-PAC calls on the community to vote for her.