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Op-Ed on “Greek Americans and the 2006 Congressional Elections”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
May 18, 2006—No. 47 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed on “Greek Americans and the 2006 Congressional Elections”

Washington, DC—The following Op-Ed by AHI President Gene Rossides appeared in the May 15, 2006 issue of Greek News, page 37.

Greek Americans and the 2006 Congressional Elections

By Gene Rossides

The 2006 congressional elections in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are well under way. They offer Greek Americans an excellent opportunity: (1) to voice their views on foreign policy issues of concern to them and (2) to seek to influence the views of those running for elective office.

Because of President George W. Bush’s low ratings in the opinion polls on job performance, the Democratic Party believes it has a chance to capture either the House or Senate or both. As a result there will be a much greater interest in these elections than would normally be the case.

Most observers believe that the Democrats are likely to gain seats both in the House and in the Senate for the first time since 2000. The question is whether the Democrats can gain sufficient seats to achieve a majority in either chamber.

The Republicans hold 231 House seats out of 435 seats and the Democrats 201 seats with one Democrat-leaning independent and 2 vacancies which are split between the parties. The Democrats need to have a net gain of 15 seats to become the majority party in the House.

In the Senate the Republicans hold a majority of 55 seats to the Democrats 44 plus one Democrat-leaning independent. The Democrats need to gain six seats to achieve a majority in the Senate.

The news for the next six months to election day on November 7, 2006 will feature politics 24/7. This applies also in the overwhelming majority of safe seats in the House and Senate because of President Bush’s low- poll ratings—in the 30’s. Republicans and Democrats well remember the anti-incumbent mood in 1994 which led to an unforeseen Republican landslide and a majority in the House and Senate and Newt Gingrich becoming Speaker of the House. The Republicans picked up 54 House seats and 10 Senate seats. The Democrats had controlled the House for 40 years.

Following the 2000 census, redistricting increased the number of “safe” districts in the House which means “safely” in the hands of one party or the other. Only 32 congressional districts were close in 2004. By close I mean the winner won with less than 55 percent of the vote. This means that incumbents have a strong hold on retaining power.

Michael Barone, a leading political analyst and nationally syndicated columnist, writes that the Democrats’ chances of capturing a net gain of 15 seats “are not very good,” although they do “have a chance to win the House, but it’s far from a sure thing.” (Washington Times, 3-14-06, A19, col.3).

In the Senate there are 33 races this year (one-third of the Senate is up for election every two years). The Democrats are defending 18 seats while the Republicans are defending 15 seats. The Democrats, who need a net gain of 6 seats to control the Senate, will concentrate on Rhode Island and Pennsylvania in the East, on Ohio and Missouri in the Midwest and on Montana and Arizona.

To counter the Democrats possibilities of picking up Republican seats, the Republicans are targeting two of the Democrats three open seats, one in Maryland where Senator Paul Sarbanes is retiring and the other in Minnesota. Republicans also are saying they have chances against three Democratic incumbents, namely Senators Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.), Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.).

This year’s key Senate race is in Pennsylvania, where Republican Senator Rick Santorum in a bid for third term is running behind the state Treasurer Bob Case Jr. (D).

In Rhode Island, a Democratic-leaning state, Republican Senator Lincoln D. Chafee is in trouble and also faces a primary opponent in the September 12 GOP primary. If successful, he will face either former state attorney general Sheldon Whitehouse or Secretary of State Matt Brown. Whitehouse is currently out-in-front for the Democratic nomination.

In Ohio, Senator Mike DeWine (R) is in trouble in his race for re-election, in substantial part because of GOP scandals in Ohio, of which he is not a part. His Democratic opponent will be decided in a primary this month.

In Montana, Senator Conrad Burns (R) is in trouble because of media reports which detailed his financial ties to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The two Democrats who are trying to unseat him are state Auditor John Morrison and state Senator Jon Testor.

The Democrats need to win all 4 of these races and 2 more, one in Arizona and one in Missouri. The incumbent Republican Senators in Arizona, Jon Kyl, and in Missouri, James M. Talent, are less vulnerable than the 4 discussed above.

I will discuss the relevant House races in a future article.

Because of the intense interest in the 2006 House and Senate races, Greek Americans have a much better opportunity to be heard to advance their views on foreign policy issues than previously. Incumbents and challengers will listen more closely to their constituent’s views.

The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) once again is making a special effort this year to solicit the foreign policy views of both incumbents and challengers and will publish the results in October prior to the November 7 election date. AHI is a non-political and is not authorized to endorse candidates. It is authorized to inform the public as to the positions and voting records of candidates.

AHI’s aim is to have both incumbents and challengers support our positions in the best interest of the U.S.

It is of great importance for Greek Americans to get involved in the political process. I urge each reader to get active. You can make a difference. Contact the candidates and tell them your views on our issues—Cyprus, the Aegean, FYROM, religious freedom and protection in Turkey for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the reopening of Halki Patriarchal School of Theology, compensation for victims of Turkish genocide, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, the need for a critical review of U.S. policy towards Turkey, human rights for the Greek minority in Albania, recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey and support for AHI’s legislative initiatives.

If you want to be part of AHI’s Congressional Contact Leadership Team in your state and in your congressional district please contact AHI- telephone: (202) 785-8430, e-mail: [email protected].

To reach your Representative and your two Senators call and write as follows:

U.S. House of Representatives: 
The Honorable____________ 
U.S. House of Representatives 
Washington, D.C. 20515

Phone: 202-224-3121 (general number) 
http://www.house.gov/

U.S. Senate 
The Honorable___________ 
U.S. Senate 
Washington, DC 20510

Phone: 202-224-3121 (general number) 
http://www.senate.gov/

Get active. You can make a difference.

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For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or [email protected]. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.