OLD BRIDGE, NJ – On the cusp of the 2020 Presidential election, Greek Americans gathered at the Grand Marquis on Wednesday, October 28, 2020, to promote awareness of Greek American candidates running for office and Greek American issues. The event was held in commemoration of the Greek National “OXI” Day holiday, highlighting the Greek response of “OXI” or “No” to Mussolini and the Axis forces during World War II. The event was organized by Hellenic News of America’s founder and chairman, Paul Kotrotsios in cooperation with the United Hellenic Voters Association (UHVA). The event was sponsored by Vasilis Matarangas, the current President of the Hellenic American National Council (HANC).
Amidst a polarized and divisive political climate in Washington D.C. and the nation, the event was able to provide a forum for bipartisan efforts, critical to an effective democracy. The event united Greek Americans representing all levels of government including state and local officials and the federal government, from town councils to the Office of the President.
Paul Kotrotsios, founder and chairman of the Hellenic News of America and the event organizer, remarked on the importance of a bi-partisan effort to support Greek American candidates and informing Greek American and Phil-Hellenic candidates on Greek national issues with regard to U.S. foreign policy and on issues facing the Greek American communities across the nation. Kotrotsios urged Greek Americans to get involved and vote, “Most importantly we must register to vote, and go vote! It is our duty and our privilege.”
Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) addressed the event via a video message. “This is a very important election as we know and the most critical thing is that everyone cast their ballot and make their voice heard in a democracy… we have a special obligation to protect and preserve democracy and that starts with casting a vote.” Congressman Sarbanes remains active in the Greek American community and advocates for an American foreign policy that restores religious rights to Greeks and confronts and condemns Turkish President Erdogan for the Turkish aggression against Greece and other nations.
“It is an honor to be present and support our Greek American candidates running for office. It is our responsibility to support them,” stated Councilman James Konotolios. Councilman Kontolios’s family origins hail from Chios, Greece and he currently resides in and represents the community of Ridgewood in New Jersey’s Bergen County.
President Trump’s campaign for the 2020 Presidency sent Chairman Christos Marafatsos of Greek Voices for Trump to represent the President’s mission and involvement regarding Greek American and Greek issues. Marafatsos expressed that the event provided a unifying voice for Greek Americans, “…[t]ogether under one roof, both Democrats and Republicans can have a productive conversation about how to advance Greek American and Greek interests.” Marafatsos informed the community on the importance that the Trump campaign places on the Greek community in U.S. politics.
Spiros Mantzavinos, was a Greek American candidate running for State Senator in Delaware’s 7th District. Mantzavinos is a long-time supporter of the Hellenic News of America was present at the event and enthusiastic about the future of the organization. “It’s really important that we get involved, get our kids involved so that we can have a voice when it comes to important issues facing our homeland Greece. I want to congratulate Paul on what a wonderful job he did this evening and to continue to build on the energy from this year so that we can be stronger in the future,” stated Mantzavinos. Mantzavinos was able to flip a Republican seat in his district on November 3, 2020, and will serve as the district’s state senator.
State Senator Leonidas “Lou” Raptakis, representing Rhode Island’s District 33 stated, “Just getting all of these candidates together, showing what bi-partisanship means… Having Greek American candidates here this evening, both Republican and Democrat working for their constituents here in the U.S. but also for their roots Greece and Cyprus is very important.”
Commenting on the importance of the Greek American community’s mission, Stavroula Kotrotsios Panagiotopoulos, Esq., former Assistant District Attorney and former Board of School Director from Delaware County, PA stated, “No matter what side of the aisle you are on or support, it is important to come together and promote our Greek American candidates and issues facing our Greek American communities.”
Dr. Demetrios Giannaros, former State Representative for Farmington who served as the Majority Leader and Deputy Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives harkened to the historical significance of the day for Greeks and for Americans in his message to the audience, “Today, we celebrate Greece’s firm NO to the invasion by the Nazi alliance forces and our resilience to live as a free nation. Thank you for supporting Hellenism and its great ideals. And, a special thank you for promoting and supporting our Greek-Americans who are participating in our great American democracy and helping them serve in elected and appointed public service offices, at all levels, and of all political persuasions.” Giannaros’ son, Edward Giannaros, also leads a life in politics in Connecticut where he has been elected to serve on Town Council in Farmington, CT.
HANC President and event sponsor, Vasilis Matarangas commented on the importance of promoting our Greek American candidates to public office, “I’m committed to sponsoring this type of an event put together by the Hellenic News of America on a yearly basis so we can meet and greet many more new candidates and help them get elected.”
Together with the UHVA, Paul Kotrotsios and the Hellenic News of America are seeking to promote an atmosphere of awareness of Greek national issues and issues facing the Greek American community among a diverse political spectrum. “We brought the legislators, those who could participate today, to meet and greet and learn their ideas and platforms,” Kotrotsios stated. The event’s mission served its purpose in creating a dialogue between candidates and the community, revealing how Greek roots help to rise above partisan politics.