November 4, 2015
By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Managing Editor
Although 2015 is not a national election year, Tuesday, November 3rd was Election Day in the United States, where non-federal candidates vied for several state and municipal seats. National attention was focused on marquee races for Kentucky Governor and control for the Virginia legislature, but Armenian Americans were watching smaller contests on the East Coast.
There were eight Armenian Americans on the ballot in the 2015 U.S. elections, one each in Florida, Maine, and Virginia, and five in New Jersey.
Beginning in the Sunshine State, Mark Samuelian was running for Miami Beach City Commissioner in Group VI, a non-partisan seat. Samuelian, originally from Boston, MA, ran a solid, grassroots campaign but fell just 77 votes short of victory. Florida Armenians joined the Miami Herald in withholding an endorsement in this race, the latter only offering a recommendation. “It is telling when an Armenian American candidate fails to win the endorsement of the states largest Armenian American organization and the city’s largest newspaper,” stated Florida Armenians Public Affairs Director Arsine Kaloustian. “We wish Mark the best of luck in his future endeavors,” Kaloustian said.
At the opposite end of Interstate-95, the Pine Tree State had a more well-known candidate on the ballot. Lawyer and author of “Nowhere, A Story of Exile,” Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte ran a successful campaign as a Democrat for Westbrook City Commissioner Ward III. “As a child, first coming to the U.S. as an Armenian refugee from Baku, Azerbaijan, I was always in awe of the American democratic process,” Turcotte said in an email statement to FLArmenians.com. “It inspired me to vote the very minute I could, becoming an American citizen at the age of 19. So, to actually run for office and garner 64% of the vote has been an incredibly meaningful and emotional process for me. I am very thankful to receive the people’s support and hope to make them proud in the years to come,” Turcotte said. With her decisive victory, Turcotte becomes the city’s youngest and only female commissioner. She is also the first Armenian refugee from Azerbaijan to win an election in the United States.
In the Garden State, five Armenian Americans were on the ballot in Bergen County, New Jersey. Haworth City Councilman Glenn Poosikian, the Democratic incumbent, was elected to his fourth term. Independent challenger Roger Tashjian was also elected to the Oradell City Council. In Old Tappan, John Shahdanian II won a seat on the City’s Board of Education. Unfortunately, Paramus Board of Education candidate Kohar Boyadjian and River Vale Board of Education candidate Dr. Armine Lulejian-Manookian were unsuccessful in their bids.
Finally, in the Old Dominion State, Democrat Martin Mooradian, Jr. ran an unsuccessful campaign for State Assembly District 27. This Richmond-based, safe-Republican seat is home to a large Armenian American community. However, the majority of Armenian Americans in Richmond are registered Republicans. While Mooradian won the endorsement of the Armenian American community of Richmond, the district’s demographics were too much for the young Mooradian to overcome.
In total 50% of Armenian American candidates on the ballot in 2015 won election, while 50% were unsuccessful. On the winning side, one incumbent retained his seat, while three challengers were successful. On the losing side were four political newcomers, but it’s too early to tell if they will seek office again in the future.