News

Ethnic divisions shape Glendale Assembly race

Seven local newspapers and four local television stations have closely
covered the Assembly race in District 43–and those are just Armenian media.

The two candidates, Frank Quintero and Paul Krekorian, dueling to win the
Democratic primary on June 6 have campaigned actively for the votes of the
large and growing Armenian population in their district, which includes
Glendale, Burbank and parts of northern Los Angeles including Los Feliz,
Silver Lake and North Hollywood.

Quintero, a 59-year-old Glendale city councilman and former owner of a
job-training company, greets potential voters on the campaign trail with
Armenian salutations. And when construction is complete on a
27,000-square-foot Armenian cultural center, it will owe its existence in
part to Quintero–he was the only non-Armenian councilman to vote for the
project.

Krekorian, a 45-year-old member of the Burbank Board of Education and
entertainment lawyer, is Armenian and has appeared regularly in televised
ads speaking the language fluently.

The district’s historically Democratic voting trends mean that the race to
become the district’s assemblyman likely will be decided by this June’s
primary. With less than two weeks of campaigning left, the contest remains
fiercely competitive.

Neither Quintero nor Krekorian won the party’s endorsement in late April,
and many of the traditional Democratic bases remain divided. With no clear
indication of how Democratic voters will split, many observers point to the
growing prominence of ethnicity in the race.

“The undertone behind the race is that Dario Frommer wants to keep this a
Latino seat. What’s playing out in the race is whether the seat is going to
be kept as a Latino seat or become an Armenian one,” said one political
observer.

Frommer, the district’s current assemblyman, will be termed out of office
and has endorsed Quintero. Frommer dropped out of the race this year for
state controller but is planning a run for state senate in 2008. In 2000
Krekorian lost the Democratic primary to Frommer by 3,000 votes. Many within
the Armenian community point to Krekorian’s 2000 defeat as a galvanizing
event.

In 2003 Krekorian became the first Armenian elected in Burbank history. In
Glendale, eight of the 15 elected officials are Armenian, including three of
five council members. Virtually all of these have been elected in the past
six years.

Glendale has the largest population within the district and the largest
Armenian population outside of Armenia.

“While Glendale has a very large Armenian population, most of them are
registered Republicans,” and will not be able to vote in the Republican
primary, said Mona Field, author of California Government and Politics Today
and a professor of political science at Glendale Community College. Field
expects this will weaken the impact of the Armenian vote.

In anticipation of this problem, the American National Committee of America
(ANCA) claims to have registered thousands of Armenians in the district to
vote in this primary. No group has been more responsible for the political
ascendancy of Armenians in the district than ANCA, the largest Armenian
political group in the country. ANCA endorsed Krekorian and has canvassed
for him throughout the 43rd district.

“When there’s an Armenian candidate, the number of Armenian registered
voters jumps through the roof,” said Eric Hacopian, the campaign consultant
and spokesperson for Krekorian.

Krekorian’s aggressive voter-registration campaign became the focus of a
county investigation this week. The district attorney has begun a formal
inquiry after signatures for absentee-ballot requests did not match voter
registration cards.

Quintero’s campaign accused Krekorian of electoral fraud in a press release
Monday night and urged quick legal action.

Hacopian blames Krekorian’s large registration drive for the investigation.
The drive targeted many non-English speaking immigrants who are not as
familiar with the process, he said.

Meanwhile, the California Latino Leadership Fund has supported Quintero’s
campaign with large independent expenditures. The PACs that supports Latino
candidates and causes gave $30,000 in support of Quintero and $18,000
against Krekorian.

The two campaigns have very different estimates of the share of Latino and
Armenian likely voters. Phil Giarrizzo, Quintero’s campaign consultant and
spokesperson, expects that Latinos and Armenians will account for 16 and 4
percent of likely voters, respectively. Hacopian estimates that the both
groups will compose 15 percent each of likely voters.

Quintero’s campaign has received the endorsement of the United Farm Workers
and Service Employees International Union, two unions with many Latino
members.

Both campaigns have benefited from large independent expenditures. With more
than $80,000 from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association,
Quintero has been of their largest recipients statewide. EdVoice, an
education PAC, has given more than $30,000 to support Krekorian through
independent expenditures.

Each candidate has received more than $300,000 in direct campaign
contributions.

Quintero’s commitment to the Democratic Party has been a cause of concern in
some of the district’s Democratic circles. He became an appointee of
former-Governor Pete Wilson in 1994. He did not register as a Democrat until
former Governor Gray Davis was elected in 1998.

The biggest Democratic clubs in the district have not supported Quintero, in
part because of their uncertainty over his party credentials. His recent
response on vouchers at a public forum did not reaffirm wary party members.
After saying that he supported vouchers, the California Teachers Association
organized demonstrations outside his Glendale office. Quintero has since
said that he was misunderstood and that he does not support vouchers.


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