BOCA RATON, FL – Florida Armenians (FLArmenians.com) is calling for signatures to a letter urging Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to issue a statement on April 24th recognizing the 1915 Armenian Genocide. The deadline to sign is Friday, April 23 at 3:00PM ET.
The letter is open to all U.S. residents. Incomplete contact information will not be included.
By Taniel Koushakjian
Florida Armenians Editor
On a bright and sunny August day at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, State Senator Jack Latvala (R-Pinellas) made a highly anticipated announcement; he if officially running for Governor of Florida.
Surrounded by family, friends, and supporters, Senator Latvala made his campaign official, and told a riled up crowd why he says he is the best candidate.
“I will be the candidate who tells it to you straight. Who, when he gives you his word, will keep my word,” he said. “Anyone who I have ever served with will tell you that if you don’t think Jack Latvala keeps his word than you don’t know jack.”
Latvala is term-limited in the State Senate, as is Governor Rick Scott, whom he is seeking to replace in Tallahassee.
Jack Latvala joins Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (R-Bartow) in the race for the Republican nomination. State House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Pasco), and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6) are also expected to join the Florida primary race for Governor.
Prior to his 2010 election as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam represented Florida’s 12th Congressional District (2000-2010). He did not support or oppose any Armenian American issues or legislative initiatives during his 10-year career in Congress. A former U.S. Navy JAG officer, Rep. DeSantis, was elected to Congress in 2012 and also has no record in support of or opposition to Armenian American issues. However, it is noteworthy that Rep. DeSantis joined about a dozen of his colleagues in condemning Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan and his “goon squad,” after the Turkish President’s security service brutally assaulted several peaceful American demonstrators outside of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C. this past May.
As Florida Armenians reported in 2013, Senator Latvala introduced SR 1878, recognizing “Armenian Martyrs Remembrance Day.” It was the first Armenian Genocide resolution ever passed in the Florida Senate. Armenian Americans from Tallahassee and across the state of Florida were on hand to witness the historic occasion. Latvala is the only Republican running for Governor of Florida with a positive record in support of Armenian American issues, and his leadership on genocide affirmation and human rights education in the state could be an important factor for the state’s 30,000+ Armenian Americans.
Announced Democrats for Governor of Florida include former one-term Congresswoman Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King. Gwen Graham is the daughter of former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) who withdrew his cosponsorship of an Armenian Genocide recognition resolution and then voted against breaking a filibuster in a historic Senate cloture vote in 1990. The younger Graham, however, had no record in support of or opposition to Armenian American issues during her short time in Congress. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine (D-Miami) and Orlando attorney John Morgan are also expected to run for the Democratic nomination for Florida Governor.
Primary elections will be held in Florida on August 28, 2018.
Senate Confirms Next U.S. Ambassador to Turkey; Vote on Nominees to Yerevan, Baku Expected in December
By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Managing Editor
This week, the House and Senate considered measures concerning the Armenian American community. Congress was expected to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown on September 30th, when current funding is set to expire. However, after President Obama’s primetime address on September 10th calling for the arming of Syrian rebels, the House voted on a measure to do just that and attached it as an amendment to the CR, setting up a complex and very interesting pattern of voting.
In what Roll Call described as a vote “fractured along untraditional [party] lines,” the House approved the CR 319-108, and 273-156 on the amendment to arm Syrian rebels. 143 Democrats joined 176 Republicans in support of the CR, while 55 Democrats and 53 Republicans opposed. On the Syria amendment, 159 Republicans were joined by 114 Democrats in support of the measure, while 85 Republicans and 71 Democrats opposed.
According to several interviews with Armenian American community leaders across the United States, an overwhelming majority support US airstrikes against ISIL. However, they do not support President Obama’s call to train and arm Syrian rebel factions, especially in the wake of the Turkish-backed rebel assault on the Christian Armenian town of Kessab, Syria earlier this year.
An analysis by FLArmenians.com reveals that House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL), and Congressmen Alan Grayson (D-FL), and David Jolly (R-FL) voted against arming Syrian rebels, yet supported the CR.
Republican Congressmen Ted Yoho (R-FL), Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Bill Posey (R-FL), Richard Nugent (R-FL), Tom Rooney (R-FL), and Curt Clawson (R-FL) voted against both the amendment arming Syrian rebels and the CR. Interestingly, Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), opposed President Obama on both the Syrian amendment and the CR.
Everyone else stood with President Obama in supporting the amendment to arm Syrian rebels and for the CR.
While it is clear that Armenian Americans support the President’s vow to “destroy and ultimately defeat ISIL,” they are wary of training and arming Islamic rebel factions with known ties to al-Qaeda and that have a record of attacking Christians just like ISIL.
Florida Armenians have an important role to play in this debate. Many Armenian American families in Florida emigrated from Syria, mostly descendants of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Some still have relatives there. They are uniquely familiar with the regional dynamics and can provide critical insight into what groups truly protect and respect religious minorities, be they Christian Armenian, Assyrian, or Yezidi.
Ambassador Nominees to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 98-0 to confirm John R. Bass as the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mark Kirk (R-FL), and Ed Markey (D-MA) submitted to the nominee questions on the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s blockade of Armenia. “We commend Chairman Menendez, and Senators Barbara Boxer, Mark Kirk and Ed Markey for their stance on issues concerning Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish-Azerbaijani blockade of Armenia, and other critical issues affecting the region,” stated Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “Following in the footsteps of Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire who in 1915 alerted the world to the Armenian Genocide, it is important that our Foreign Service officers execute a foreign policy that appropriately reflects America’s values,” he said.
Both Florida Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) supported Bass’ nomination without question.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony from President Obama’s nominees to be the next U.S. ambassador to Armenia and Azerbaijan, Richard M. Mills and Robert F. Cekuta, respectively. Both are expected to be confirmed by the full Senate sometime during the lame-duck session, which is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, November 12th.