By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Contributor
Every four years, the campaign for the highest office of the land takes place. As candidates from the Republican Party navigated the choppy waters of the primary storm this election season, one man sailed to victory: former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Winning the party’s nomination was no easy feat and on several occasions, the media and members of his own party, were quick to write him off. However, Mitt Romney and his campaign rose to the challenge, and secured the 1,190 Republican Party Delegates necessary to clinch the nomination. No doubt, the battles he faced in the primary contest will come in handy when he goes head-to-head with President Obama.
Among these Republican Party Delegates, who are elected within their respective state party systems, were six Armenian-Americans. The States of Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan and Rhode Island were each represented by an official GOP Delegate of Armenian descent.
Harout Samra, an attorney in Miami said, “it was a privilege to attend the Republican National Convention as a delegate for Florida. Coming to the floor of the Convention hall for the first time was very exciting. Frankly, I did not expect to be as moved as I was. It was a great honor to have been selected to represent my fellow Floridians. That came home to me as I reached the floor. I genuinely enjoy interacting with people from different backgrounds. The United States is a remarkably diverse place, and I believe this diversity was represented not only in our delegation, but also in those of the other states. Florida’s delegation included first-generation Americans, such as myself, and longtime natives. It included Indian-Americans, Cuban-Americans, and even one Armenian-American.
“Governor Romney knows and understands the issues that are important to Armenian-Americans. Living in Belmont and serving as the Governor of Massachusetts, he’s had more important contacts and relationships with the Armenian-American community than any President since Ronald Reagan. He will not mislead us and pander to us to get Armenian-American votes like President Obama.
“Governor Romney is the right man for the moment. He understands how to turn around the economy at home and to ensure that America is respected abroad. Unlike President Obama, Governor Romney’s top priority will be to create an environment that leads to more jobs and spurs economic growth,” stated Samra.
Another Republican Party Delegate, Bob Semonian, State Chairman of Massachusetts Republican Party-Ethnic Outreach expressed that he was “thrilled to attend the Republican National Convention in Tampa this year. Americans want honesty in the White House and Mitt Romney is an honest man who will best represent all of America,” stated Semonian, who also serves as the Armenian-Americans for Mitt Romney Coalition Massachusetts State Chair.
From the Great Lakes State was Krista Haroutunian, who serves as the Republican Party Chair for the 13th Congressional District. She stated, “My time at the 2012 RNC was extremely important and made me proud to be American, an Armenian, and from Detroit, Michigan.” Haroutunian continued, “The first concern of an American, of whatever cultural or ethnic background, is the independence, freedom, and well-being of Americans. This allows us to be able to express concerns for Armenian issues and to assist appropriately.
“Mr. Romney knows that the founding fathers of America had great concerns about dictatorial attitudes and insisted upon a separation of powers – something Mr. Obama has side-stepped for the better part of four years. Mr. Romney wants to return to a Constitutional government through our elected Representatives. Mr. Obama wants all-pervasive government with the decision makers being unelected bureaucrats.
“The choice is clear – constitutional guarantees and responsibilities to preserve the rule of law versus arbitrary actions from a few with no guarantees of the rule of law. For all Armenians and all Americans, Mitt Romney is the best choice.”
Over the course of this year, several Armenian-Americans across the country, including the author, have been challenged on our position of supporting Governor Romney over President Obama. “What do you expect from Romney that will be different from Obama,” is the common intrigue. To put it plainly, like all Americans, we expect leadership, honesty and values from our elected officials. When it comes to Armenian issues, President Obama failed to fulfill his campaign pledge to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide as President. That calls into question his honesty. President Obama’s nomination and subsequent recess appointment of Matthew Bryza to serve as Ambassador to Azerbaijan was opposed by Senators of his own party, not to mention many Armenian-Americans. That calls into question his ability to lead. And the silence of the Obama administration on the destruction, confiscation and profiteering of Christian Armenian religious properties by the Turkish Government, as well as Azerbaijan’s completed destruction of centuries-old Armenian Khachkars at Julfa, call into question his values.
From Fresno to Philadelphia, from Manchester to Miami, from Detroit to Denver, from Waukesha to Washington, DC, Armenian-Americans have expressed their frustration with President Obama, and many former Armenian supporters of his are now backing Mitt Romney for President. In fact, one prominent Armenian-American who supported President Obama in 2008, and is now backing Governor Romney, expressed as much to the author. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, she shared her frustration: “Senator Obama chose to promise, in campaign speeches and written outreach, recognition of the 1915 genocide of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks. He fully understood the importance of that issue to the Armenian American community and indeed to all right thinking Americans. Americans deserve a President who knows his principles and makes his decisions in accordance with those principles. Americans deserve a President who has integrity. So why come November would I vote for a President who over the course of four years has delivered precious little and lied to us and other communities?”
Indeed, why would we? She then confessed, “I’ll take a chance on Romney.”
This article originally appeared in the October 13, Volume 13 Print Edition of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator.
Majority of Florida Delegation Opposed Turkey-Skewed Measure
By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Contributor
Washington, DC – Yesterday, the US House of Representatives voted down legislation, on a bipartisan basis, that singled out Turkey for preferential treatment to engage in economic development projects on specific Indian tribal lands in the United States. H.R. 2362, the Indian Tribal Trade and Investment Demonstration Project Act, was brought to the floor for a vote under the suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority for passage. The measure was defeated 222-160, falling short of the 255 votes needed.
Speaking in support of H. R. 2362 were Representatives Doc Hastings (R-WA), Tom Cole (R-OK), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), James Moran (D-VA), Dan Boren (D-OK) along with Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS), while Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Hellenic Caucus Co-Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) led the charge against the legislation. On the day of the vote, Congressman Bilirakis, joined by his fellow Hellenic and Armenian Caucus colleagues, issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to House members, urging their opposition to H.R. 2362.
In a statement released by the Armenian Assembly of America, bill sponsor Cole noted in his remarks that the Turkish Coalition of America approached him about the bill. “According to campaign contribution records, Representative Cole has received $6,000 in Turkish PAC money this cycle while Representative Foxx received $10,000,” read the Assembly’s statement.
A majority of Representatives from the Florida delegation opposed giving preferential treatment to the Republic of Turkey. Florida representatives voting in opposition to H.R. 2362 include Reps. Sandy Adams (R-FL), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Corrine Brown (D-FL), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Bolart (R-FL), Jeff Miller (R-FL), Rich Nugent (R-FL), David Rivera (R-FL), Tom Rooney (R-FL), Dennis Ross (R-FL), Steve Southerland (R-FL), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), and Allen West (R-FL). Voting in favor of the legislation were Florida Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), John Mica (R-FL), Bill Posey (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Daniel Webster (R-FL) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL). Congressman Connie Mack (R-FL), who is anticipated to win the Republican nomination in the Florida Senate race, was not present at yesterday’s vote.
According to the Armenian National Committee, “the measure was opposed by a broad spectrum of Hellenic and Armenian American organizations, including the American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA), American Hellenic Institute (AHI), American Hellenic Council (AHC), the ANCA and the Armenian Assembly of America, all of which alerted House members about the negative repercussions of passing the controversial pro-Turkey measure.”
You can watch the debate on H.R. 2362 here.
*Updated July 26, 2012 at 11:55 AM