BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena, and Los Angeles, in that order, will wrap up their election cycles over the next few weeks. With these cities’ significant Armenian populations, it becomes very important for Armenian voters to turn out in droves to demonstrate civic responsibility and concern for issues that are uniquely Armenian, beyond the concerns shared with all residents. So… vote, vote, vote!
Glendale’s one-round/plurality-wins elections for city council, board of education, and community college board are first up, scheduled for April 7. As usual, there is a large number of Armenian candidates running for office, incumbents and newbies, some very credible, others not. Glendale’s ANCA has issued its endorsements, all available at Asbarez.com, and they seem sound (they are too many to list in this space). Unfortunately, once again a relatively large number of Armenians are running for city council. The Armenian-chronic-spoiler-candidate seems to be at it again, running a (likely record-breaking) SIXTH time for city council. Vartan Gharpetian, after a close call last time has a respectable chance of winning, but his chances are a bit reduced because of the spoiler’s presence along with two new Armenian candidates. One of them, I have no insights about. But the other seems to be competent and promising for the future. I do wish the latter had waited one more round before entering the fray. There are also charter amendments on Glendale’s ballot that will have significant impact. Please be sure to vote as the ANCA has recommended. These will have significant, beneficial, impacts in democratizing elections and shoring up the city’s finances.
A week later, it’s Burbank’s turn. This is where the convict comes in. One of the two contenders for the unfilled school board seat is appealing a guilty verdict for assaulting and battering a fellow parent at his child’s school. It is incredible that someone with this kind of history has advanced so far. But given that among his opposition were people with “strange” names (i.e. Armenian and Thai), it is my sense that the xenophobia infesting a small portion of Burbank’s voting population manifested itself. This is why, in addition to his competence, Armond Aghkhanian, the leading candidate for this school board seat, must be elected. Your vote will REALLY count. For city council, the ANCA has endorsed Emily Gabel-Luddy and Juan Guillen. Luddy is an incumbent and received the most votes in the primary, but fell short of an outright win. She will likely win on April 14. But Guillen has a tough race, and the Armenian community’s support will be key to his success. Much as happened two years ago, our community’s votes can tip the election one way or the other. Please be sure to vote. It will strengthen our presence in Burbank and build on the respect we are earning for the high level of civic participation our rates of voting signal.
In Pasadena, things are a bit simpler. In the primary election, all ANCA endorsed candidates, except one, won. Terry Tornek, garnering 37% of the vote led the pack in this city’s primary mayoral election, resulting in a runoff, set for April 21. His nearest competitor got 31%. This is another instance where our community’s votes will really matter. It seems to me like this will be a tight election. So if you are registered to vote in Pasadena, make sure you to get out, vote, and demonstrate our community’s clout in a city that hosts one of the oldest Armenian communities in the LA basin.
Los Angeles’ May 19 election presents an interesting canvas. All but four seats were filled in the March 3 Primary Elections for city council, school board, and community college board, with three of those being of significant interest to Armenians, for different reasons. City Council District 4 is home to a sizeable Armenian population. It contains the northern half of the Hollywood Armenian community (the last redistricting split this concentration despite extensive efforts to the contrary), the Hollywood Hills, and a small part of the San Fernando Valley. An Armenian candidate was knocked out in the primary, but our votes will really matter in a tight race. We should consolidate our efforts behind one of the two candidates who made the runoff, and not split, as happened in neighboring District 13 two years ago. Similarly, LA Unified Schools’ District 3 includes large portions of the San Fernando Valley, so our sizeable presence there can really make a difference if our community turns out to vote in the runoff.
But perhaps the most subtly important LA election is for the school board’s District 5 seat. Bennett Kayser, the incumbent running for reelection placed second, and faces a very strong challenger in the runoff. Kayser’s opponent is supported with serious money from the charter school movement (specifically, the California Charter Schools Association Advocates and its various tentacles), the same people from whom the Turkish Gulen movement has benefitted as it successfully encroaches on LAUSD schools. Kayser has been very staunch in his position opposing the Islamic religious extremists who have built the network of some 120 Gulen affiliated charter schools throughout the United States (and of course more worldwide). Consider that when all the spending in this race is added up (by the candidates themselves and independent expenditure committees for and against the candidates) Kayser’s opponent comes out 43% ahead in dollar terms! This is very unusual. It is more commonly the incumbent that has the money edge. It speaks to how much Kayser is being targeted. Given his strong position on the Gulen front, we should be assisting him as much as possible. Unfortunately, his district covers areas which are not home to very many Armenians, which speaks to the principled nature of his stance. So that leaves volunteering (making phone calls or walking neighborhoods) and campaign donations, both of which can be done through the Kayser’s website, www.bennett2015.com.
Once again, it is very important to vote, vote, vote, and show our community’s concern, involvement, and presence. When that’s coupled with some volunteers and funds, then we can have a very strong impact on elections. Make sure you hit at least one, but ideally cover all three: vote, give, do.