TNH Previews Elections That Could Be Pivotal for America & Hellenism
NEW YORK – America is preparing to go to the polls on November 8 and apropos of the stakes and the subject matter, as a service to our Community The National Herald has spoken with several of the key people who in Washington and elsewhere who strive to strengthen U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus by keeping elected and other public officials informed. At the end of this article readers will also find a list of Greek-Americans whom TNH knows are running for office this Tuesday.
Elections remind us that Greek-Americans have a double duty – as Americans, to go to the polls and exercise the right bestowed upon citizens more than 200 years ago and which they have successfully defended with their blood and lives many times since at home and abroad. As Hellenes, we must ensure that we support Hellenes and Philhellenes who will defend the rights and sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus, which, since they are NATO allies and friends of the U.S. respectively, we believe is in the interest of the United States. For the first time in a long time, ‘vigilance’ is also an election day watchword for the Community, because in Pennsylvania the candidacy of Mehmet Oz, whose extraordinary ties to Ankara – born in the United States, he volunteered to serve in the Turkish army – pose a threat to our homelands’ as well as U.S. interests.
In recent days, opinion polls have simultaneously shaken up Democrats and thrilled Republicans. Andy Manatos, CEO of the lobbying firm Manatos and Manatos in Washington, DC, looks at the scene through the lens decades of political experience and abundant common sense. “Everyone should prepare themselves for surprise results in many U.S. Senate and House races. With telephone landlines now absent from many homes, pollsters have diminished access to appropriately representative samples.” He further explains that, “there is the not-well-known ‘margin of error’ issue in even the best polls.”
It is important to note that while it is obvious that citizens can only vote for candidates in their own states and districts, they can make financial contributions to campaigns instantly on the internet right to the last day – candidates can use the funds to buy more precious advertising or pay off campaign debts.
Endy Zemenidis, Executive Director of HALC, spotlighted some keys races. “In Congress there are three candidates to focus on – Sarbanes and Bilirakis are safe. Nicole Malliotakis is increasingly safe, but that seat is in play, along with Dina Titus’ and Chris Pappas’. They are more important than in the past because of the shrinkage of the presence of Greek-Americans in Congress, and especially at a time when Carolyn Maloney and Ted Deutch will be gone from Congress – two of our greatest Philhellenes – and Charlie Crist will be gone. All three have shown tremendous leadership.” He added, “Obviously Oz – we don’t want to see win for many, many reasons. John Fetterman has engaged well with the Community, doing a couple of position papers,” Zemenides said, adding that Philhellene “Tim Ryan is in a nail-biting race… he has a great record on our issues and a tremendous connection to Greek-Americans.”
All of TNH’s interlocutors stressed the importance of supporting candidates lower down on the ballot, especially the state legislatures – the ‘minor leagues’ of American politics. Zemenides also emphasized the importance of statewide offices, noting the expected re-election of Eleni Kounalakis as Lt. Governor of California and the return in Illinois of Alexi Giannoulias as its Secretary of State. “To have two statewide officials – about whom everybody is speculating about their future” – is important. “Both are in states where their senior senators are senior citizens and both of their governors are potential presidential candidates….they thus both have great upside.” He concluded by noting, “I think we will remember 2022, however, as the year that Rob Menendez Jr. – the son of philhellene Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – enters Congress.”
Kathleen Kromedas McGuiness is another holder of statewide office. She was elected as Delaware State Auditor in 2018 and is running for re-election. Also on the ballot are Susan Bysiewicz, in the Connecticut Lt. Governor’s race, and Jim Condos in the Vermont race for Secretary of State. Diana Dizoglio is running for Massachusetts State Auditor
Nicholas Larigakis, President and CEO of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), began by saying, “I like to think that every election is important, not just for the Greek-American community but for the greater American community and the principles of Democracy this country was founded upon, however, from the perspective of Greek-Americans it’s critically important for members of the community to be involved in the political process and not merely voting for the candidates of their choice.
Larigakis addressed some of the Community’s darkest electoral fears. After noting that Bob Menendez is “our strongest supporter in the Senate” and is currently Foreign Relations Chairman, he said, “I feel it won’t be the end of the world if the House or Senate go Republican” – Menendez losing the Chairmanship – “regarding the issues of the Community because of the fact that there are now people on both sides of the aisle who do not view Turkey in a great light – on the other hand, they see Greece being exceptionally important to American interests.”
He also stressed the importance of supporting candidates at the state and local level who have the potential to make the leap into Congress, pointing out that Nicole Malliotakis, who was a NY State Assemblywoman and is now a Congresswoman, “is a great example of this.”
Indeed, it is Community leaders’ duty to identify and support talented and ethical politicians with potential at all levels, including at city council and school board levels where many elected officials get their starts.
GREEK-AMERICAN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
It must be noted here that all Greek-American congresspersons are members of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues founded and Co-chaired by outgoing great Philhellene Congresswoman Carolyn (AKA Bouboulina) Maloney, who will be sorely missed.
Charlie Crist , who grew up in St. Petersburg, currently represents Florida’s 13th district. He will not be returning to Congress, however because he has set his sights on defeating the incumbent, Ron DeSantis and returning to the Governor’s mansion, where he served as Governor from 2007 to 2011.
Representative Gus Bilirakis is a Republican from Palm Harbor who has represented Florida’s 12th District since 2006. Bilirakis has been honored as ‘the Most Effective Lawmaker in the State of Florida’ by the Center for Effective Lawmaking at Vanderbilt University. Raised to be the Hellenic champion that he is by his father, former Congressman Mike Bilirakis, Gus is Co-Founder and Co-Chair Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues.
John Sarbanes is a Democrat and has represented Maryland’s 3rd District since 2007. He was graduated from Princeton University and his JD is from Harvard Law School. He picked up the baton on Hellenic and Community issues from his father, the late revered U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes.
Dina Titus’s full name is Alice Constandina Titus and was born in Georgia. She was been one of Nevada’s three members of Congress since 2013 and is a member of the important House Foreign Affairs Committee. Before her election Titus was a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Chris Pappas is a Democrat and he was been serving as one of New Hampshire’s two U.S. Representatives since 2019. A Harvard graduate, when he was elected he became the first openly gay person to represent New Hampshire in Congress. This year he took the lead on the national holiday by introducing a bipartisan resolution to designate October 28th as ‘OXI’ Day.
Nicole Malliotakis is very familiar to TNH readers. A Republican, in Congress she represents all of Staten Island and part of Brooklyn. She serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Malliotakis has quickly established herself in Washington and New York as a strong voice for fiscal responsibility and fighting crime.
Alek Skarlatos, the Republican candidate in Oregon’s 4th district, came to prominence as one of the people who thwarted a terrorist attack on a train in Europe. He starred as himself in Clint Eastwood’s film about the incident, titled ‘15:17 from Paris’.
The Greek-American presence in the New York State legislature is especially strong. It includes Michael Gianaris – who has helped several community members run for and win public office – and holds the important position of Deputy Majority Leader. Also serving in the New York State legislature are Republican Michael Tannousis, and Democrats Andrew Gounardes and James Skoufis. Zemenides believes Gounardes’ election is very important. “I think Gounardes is special because he has been involved of Greek issues for a long time at a state wide level.”
No list of Hellenes in state legislatures is complete without noting the indefatigable Leonidas Raptakis. The Rhode Island state senator is running unopposed, but the energetic public servant is always in motion – often flying between the U.S. and Greece, as well as around the world as President of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association.
The Order of AHEPA cannot lobby in Washington, but its members’ myriad grass roots relationships with their elected officials are priceless. Executive Director Basil. Mossaidis echoed Larigakis, saying “as a proud Greek American, I cherish my American principles and exercise my vote at every opportunity… We hear a lot of hate speak in today’s world, on television, on social media and other mediums, but I am comforted that the majority of people are using common sense to move forward as a nation. Together we work to protect our country, our nation and our families… Let’s all take time to go and cast our ballots to support the system and prove all the pundits wrong; that we as Americans can and do vote for the betterment of our country.”
According to a list forwarded to TNH by AHEPA, the following Greek-Americans, as incumbents or candidates, are running in state and local elections. Alaska: Harriet Anagnostis-Drummond; Connecticut: Eleni Kavros DeGraw; Nicole Klarides-Ditria; Christopher Ziogas; Delaware: Spiros Mantzavinos; Georgia: Chuck Efstration; Mike Cheokas; Illinois: Maria Pappas, Cook County Treasurer; Massachusetts: Denise Garlick; Bruce Tarr; John Velis; Steven Xiarhos; Josh Cutler; Anthony Christakis; Minnesota: Sandra Pappas; Nevada: James Ohrenschall; New Hampshire: Benjamin Baroody; Efstathia; Tony Lekas; New York: Michael Gianaris; Andrew Gounardes; John Lemondes; James Skoufis; Michael Tannousis; Pennsylvania: Steven Malagari, Maria Tzanakis-Collett; Rhode Island: Leonidas Raptakis (running unopposed); South Carolina: Leonidas Stavrinakis; Vermont: Christopher Mattos; Wisconsin: John Spiros (running unopposed); Wyoming: Stephan Pappas.