GLENDALE—The California Armenian American Democrats (CAAD) held a general meeting Monday, October 29, at the Pacific Park Community Center in Glendale to discuss endorsements for the statewide organization chartered by the California Democratic Party. Notably, the membership overwhelmingly rejected the endorsement of Assemblyman Mike Gatto, candidate for Assembly District 43 (AD 43) in Southern California.
Dozens of members of CAAD crowded the room where the meeting was being held. The importance of the meeting for the Armenian-American community was highlighted by the number of video cameras recording the proceedings. Allowing the cameras was approved by the executive board, with the exception of CAAD Vice Chair, Juliet Minassian, who voted against allowing the cameras.
Shortly after the start of the meeting, a proposal from a CAAD member to have a special discussion on the AD 43 race was adopted. Three individuals spoke on behalf of supporting Assemblyman and two spoke against.
The first of three speakers for Gatto, a member of CAAD, was not sure in which district Gatto was running and then mistakenly stated that he is running against another Democrat, thus making it a difficult decision.
The second speaker supporting endorsement, a former Gatto employee, listed, in general terms, how the Assemblyman had been helpful to the large Armenian-American community in his district.
The third speaker in favor of endorsement, Stacey Brenner, Gatto’s fundraiser, also discussed with broad generalities why he should be endorsed. She had not stated initially her role with the Gatto campaign until a point for clarification was raised from the membership.
Opposed to the endorsement were two speakers who expressed general and specific reservations about the endorsement and its wisdom. One speaker focused on his personal experience with organizing a college fair for high school students with the All-Armenian Student Association (All-ASA) where Gatto had promised to be present but failed to show.
Gatto received far less than the 35 required votes to win CAAD’s endorsement. The subsequent vote rejecting an endorsement of Gatto had the concurrence of over 70% of the membership – a blow to an incumbent Democratic candidate.
Failing to garner the endorsement of the two main Armenian-American Democratic organizations – CAAD and the Southern California Armenian Democrats – is sure to hurt Gatto in a district with a strong Armenian-American population.
Minutes after the Gatto endorsement vote, the meeting was abruptly adjourned by CAAD Chair Caro Avanessian at the suggestion of Vice Chair Minassian although members had expressed the desire to continue discussion on various topics. No explanation was given why the meeting was ended.
Despite the resounding objection to endorsing Gatto, CAAD Chair Avanessian posted his personal opinions on the group’s facebook page, praising Gatto and referring ambiguously to “the same group who unknowingly time after time vote against their own and Armenian community [sic] interest…” It was not clear whether Avanessian was suggesting that he knows what is in the best interest of the Armenian community and of the people who voted against the Gatto endorsement or what group he was talking about.
Having represented the Assembly district with the largest Armenian-American population the last two years, Gatto has not received the endorsement of any major Armenian-American organization during his reelection campaign.
According to its Web site, the “California Armenian-American Democrats (CAAD) is an independent, chartered organization of California’s Democratic Party, formed: to provide a vehicle for systematic participation in our Party’s decisions and direction; to urge our community to participate in Democratic policies, thereby enhancing our political and social well-being; and to cultivate new leadership committed to working within the state’s Democratic Party.”
Election Day is November 6.