WASHINGTON, DC — The Armenian American community scored bipartisan victories across the political landscape yesterday, with at least 136 of the 143 Senate and House candidates endorsed by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) winning their elections.
“We are extremely pleased that such an overwhelming majority of our supporters won yesterday, including over 97% of those we endorsed in the House of Representatives and 89% of the Congressional Armenian Caucus,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We look forward to working with these friends and the many new members of the 107th Congress on issues ranging from affirming the Armenian Genocide to strengthening Armenia and defending Nagorno Karabagh’s right to self-determination within secure borders.”
“More than ever, we were gratified by the dramatically increased involvement of Armenian Americans in the electoral process, in particular, by the positive response to our voter education campaign on the ground in local communities and on our website – www.anca.org. In the weeks prior to the election, we registered tens of thousands of visits from Armenian American activists interested in learning more about where their candidates for office stood on the issues of importance to our community,” added Hamparian.
The election season was marked by significant political gains for the Armenian American community, with local activism in key Congressional races prompting national leaders, particularly House Speaker Hastert (R-IL) and Democratic Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO), to issue written promises to the Armenian American community pledging to bring the Armenian Genocide Resolution to the House floor in the 107th Congress.
Of the five Senators to lose their seats yesterday, three had voted in 1999 to repeal the Section 907 restrictions on U.S. aid to the government of Azerbaijan. Among these were first term Minnesota Senator Rod Grams (R-MN), who lost to Democrat Mark Dayton; Senate veteran William Roth (R-DE), who was defeated by Governor Tom Carper (D-DE), and; Senator John Ashcroft, who lost the Missouri Senate battle to recently deceased Governor Mel Carnahan. It is widely expected that Governor Carnahan’s widow, Jean, will be appointed to fill that position.
One of the Senate’s most ardent and effective advocates of Armenian American concerns, Michigan’s Spencer Abraham, lost his re-election bid to Representative Debbie Stabenow in one of the nation’s tightest Senate races. Sen. Abraham was instrumental in maintaining Section 907 against a bid last year by opponents to repeal the law. Rep. Stabenow, a member of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, has been a consistent supporter on a broad range of Armenian American issues including recognition of the Armenian Genocide, U.S. aid to Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh, and Section 907.
New Jersey Senate race contenders Rep. Bob Franks (R) and businessman Jon Corzine (D) had both demonstrated strong support on a wide range of key Armenian American issues, particularly the Armenian Genocide. The winner, Senator-Elect Corzine, replaces retiring Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), who supported Armenian American issues during most of his career, but voted against Section 907 in 1999.
Virginia’s hotly contested Senate race between incumbent Chuck Robb (D) and former Republican Governor George Allen featured a competition between two close friends of the Armenian American community. Senator-Elect Allen has joined the Virginia Armenia-American community in yearly commemorations of the Armenian Genocide and, as governor, issued proclamations in memory of the victims of that tragedy.
Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee, who defeated Representative Bob Weygand (D), had responded favorably to the ANCA Candidate Questionnaire earlier this year. As a member of the House of Representatives, incoming Nevada Senator John Ensign was endorsed by the ANCA and worked closely with Las Vegas community representatives. In perhaps the most closely watched Senate race in the country, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton defeated ANCA endorsed Congressman Rick Lazio (R). Senator-Elect Clinton has yet to share her views on key Armenian American concerns.
Wrapping up other key senate races, long time supporters Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) each easily won their re-election bids, along with ANCA endorsed candidates Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Rick Santorum (R-PA). Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) won a convincing victory over Representative Tom Campbell (R). Sen. Feinstein, who was endorsed by the ANCA, received an “A” rating for her votes in support of Section 907 and other key issues. Former Georgia Governor Zell Miller replaced Senator Paul Coverdell (R-GA), who passed away this July. Washington state Senator Slade Gorton holds a slim lead over Maria Cantwell, in a race which is still too close to call. Gorton had voted in 1999 in support of Section 907.
House of Representatives
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) both will return to the 107th Congress, along with eighty-six of the ninety-seven Caucus members from the 106th Congress. Long time Caucus Co-Chairman John Porter is retiring from Congress, bringing an end to a Congressional career marked by steadfast support for human rights. In addition to Rep. Porter, three other Caucus members either retired or stepped down to run for other office, Representatives Bob Franks, Debbie Stabenow and Bob Weygand.
All five of the non-incumbent candidates endorsed by the ANCA won their elections. Most prominent among these was Democrat Adam Schiff, who defeated incumbent James Rogan in what became the most expensive and perhaps the most watched House race in U.S. history. The others were Mike Honda (D-CA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), James Langevin (D-RI), and Hilda Solis (D-CA). ANCA local chapters had worked closely with each of their campaigns to educate the candidates on issues of concern to the Armenian American community. Armenian American Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and John Sweeney (R-NY) each won re-election.
With the Republicans maintaining their slim majority in the House of Representatives, Armenian Americans will look to Speaker Hastert to honor his pledge to bring the Armenian Genocide resolution back to the House floor. On October 19th, in the final moments before the resolution was to be adopted by the House, Speaker Hastert, at the urging of the Clinton Administration, withdrew the measure from consideration. He subsequently stated that he personally supported the resolution and that it enjoyed the support of a majority of the members of the House. In an October 23rd statement, he said that “the House of Representatives will undoubtedly return to consideration of this important issue if the Turkish Government and the Armenian Government have not found a satisfactory way to get the full truth of what happened during those troubled years – on the record.”
Members Leaving Congress Include Staunch Supporters, Outspoken Foes
The Armenian American community will miss a number of Congressional friends who had played critical roles in Armenian American political victories but lost their elections on November 7th. Notable among these are California Representatives Steve Kuykendall (R) and Brian Bilbray (R). New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt and his challenger, former Congressman Dick Zimmer (R), remain locked in a closely-contested recount, with reports indicating Holt leading by only fifty votes. Both have been supportive on a wide-range Armenian American concerns.
The closest ally of the Armenian American community to lose his seat this Tuesday was Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D-CT), the Ranking Democrat on the International Relations Committee. Rep. Gejdenson played a critical role in the Committee’s approval this October of the Armenian Genocide resolution. Next in line to serve as Ranking Democrat on the International Relations Committee is Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), who spearheaded opposition last month to the adoption of the Armenian Genocide resolution.
House retirees Representatives Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Ron Packard (R-CA), Pat Danner (D-MO), and Tillie Fowler (R-FL), each had received “F” ratings for their active opposition to Armenian American issues.
For a full listing of ANCA endorsements visit www.anca.org.