Op-Ed: Support Our Greek American Candidates for Congress
WASHINGTON, DC—The following Op-Ed by Gene Rossides appeared in the National Herald of 10-4-08, and Greek News 10-6-08.
By Gene Rossides
September 30, 2008
The presidential election and the congressional elections are less then 35 days away. Most of the media are concentrating on the presidential race between Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and Senator John McCain (R-AR).
In these comments I will highlight the Greek American candidates for Congress. How many realize that there are eight Greek American candidates for the House of Representatives-five incumbents and three newcomers?
The five incumbent representatives in alphabetical order are Shelley Berkley, Democrat in the 1st Congressional District of Nevada. She is serving her 5th term and won her last election in 2006 with 65 percent of the vote. Her grandmother was Greek from Thessaloniki and part of the Greek Jewish community there.
Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Republican of the 9th Congressional District of Florida won the seat in 2006 that his father held for many years. He won with 56 percent of the vote. He faces a strong challenge from his Democratic opponent. He is on the important Foreign Affairs Committee and on its Europe Subcommittee. He is Co-Chair of the Hellenic Caucus.
Congressman John Sarbanes, Democrat of the 3rd Congressional District of Maryland is following his father’s career in elective office. John Sarbanes won with a solid 64 percent of the vote. His biggest problem was campaigning to win the Democratic Primary which he did after a difficult race.
The fourth incumbent is Congressman Zack Space Democrat of the 18th Ohio Congressional District. He won a Republican seat with 62 percent of the vote. In part he was helped by the ethics scandal of his opponent. He has performed outstandingly and it is most important that he be reelected.
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas represents the 5th Congressional District of Massachusetts. The widow of the legendary Senator Paul Tsongas, she is a distinguished woman in her own right. She has three Greek American daughters and calls herself “Greek by osmosis.” She won the election in 2006 with 50 percent of the vote.
It is most important that all 5 incumbents be re-elected.
There are three Greek Americans challenging incumbents, two in Ohio and one in Nevada.
Jane Mitakides is the Democratic challenger for the 3rd Congressional District of Ohio. I wrote about her candidacy earlier this year and reported that she had a solid chance to win. The good news today, with thirty-one days to Election Day is that the Dayton Daily News called the race a tossup. She has a 50-50 chance to win. It is most important that she and the others receive additional campaign contributions for the home-stretch drive.
Jane Mitakides is a modern American woman married with a family and a successful local small business owner. She and her husband John Mitakides are proud parents of two children—Katie who is completing her Ph.D. in international relations, and Andrew, a recent graduate of Sydney College in Virginia.
Jane is an active member of the American Hellenic Institute. Her positions on the key Greek American issues of Cyprus, the Aegean, FYROM, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Halki and Visa Waiver Program are right on the mark.
Jim Trakas is the Republican challenger for the 10th Congressional District seat of Ohio, currently held by Dennis Kucinich (D). This will be a high profile race because Jim’s opponent sought the Democratic presidential nomination. The 10th Congressional District is in northeast Ohio and contains part of the city of Cleveland.
Jim Trakas has a solid opportunity to win this race. He won the Republican primary with 79.31 percent of the vote. In comparison Kucinich barely received 50 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. In a poll earlier this year less than 50 percent said that Dennis Kucinich deserved to be re-elected, Polls show that voters “are frustrated with Congressman Kucinich’s reckless stances on our country’s economic and national security policy.”
James Peter Trakas, 43, is a lifelong resident of northeast Ohio. He was born and raised in Independence, Ohio. He graduated from Ohio State University in 1987. In 1996 he was elected chairman of the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County at the age of 30.
In 1998 Trakas was elected to the 15th and later 17th District of the Ohio House of Representatives. He served for 4 terms and had the role of House Majority Whip for two terms.
Jimis member of the Order of AHEPA and the American Hellenic Institute.
As you would expect Jim Trakas is solid on all of the issues of special concern to Greek American. He is also a man of action. While in the Ohio State Legislature he sponsored a resolution which passed asking the U.S. government not to recognize the Skopje regime with the word Macedonia in its name.
Dina Titus is the Democratic challenger for the 3rd Congressional District of Nevada. She is no stranger to elective politics. Dina Titus has represented the people of Senate District 7 in the Nevada legislature for twenty years, since 1988, and served as the Democratic Minority Leader from 1993 to May 2008. She is working now to unseat the incumbent Republican Jon Porter. She has a great chance to win. Her polls show she is ahead and her opponent is not resorting to negative ads.
Dina grew up in the small community of Tifton, Georgia, where her Greek grandfather ran a restaurant. She was named after her grandfather, Arthur Constantinos Cathones. She honored him with an engraved brick at Ellis Island. Dina learned from a close-knit family the value of community involvement and was introduced to politics at an early age. On the Titus side, her uncle served in the Georgia Legislature and her father ran for a seat on the Tifton City Council.
In high school Dina was a cheerleader, tap dancer and an outstanding student. Dina attended a summer program at the historic College of William and Mary and did so well that she was admitted full time for the fall-without a high school diploma. She earned her BA degree, majoring in Political Science and then a Master’s degree from the University of Georgia and a Doctorate from Florida State University.
Dina accepted a faculty position of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Over the past 30 years, her students are a who’s who in government, public service in Nevada.
As a proud American of Greek descent, she has spoken out in favor of Hellenism in the classroom and in the Nevada legislature where she has sponsored resolutions recognizing that Macedonia is Greek. She is committed to reunifying Cyprus and the protecting the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Dina is internationally known for her expertise in the history and politics related to nuclear power, weaponry and waste. She was honored to give a guest lecture at the Los Alamos Historical Society.
The above information on Dina Titus was obtained from an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal by Molly Ball on 9-26-08.
Support Our Candidates
All of these Greek American candidates are talented, young and outstanding. It is a privilege to write about them and to urge your full support.
We must return the five incumbents to office! And we must elect the three challengers!
The best way the community can help is to make sure they each have sufficient funds to run a winning campaign in the home stretch—one month to go.
The maximum contribution for an individual is $2,300 for the general election and the same amount for the primary election. If you gave in the primary you can still give up to $2,300 for the general election. And each member of the household can give a maximum of $2,300.
Please give $2,300, $1,000, $500, $250 or the most you can give to each of these candidates. It can be the money that will lead to victory on Tuesday, November 4, 2008. Your contributions can make the difference.
Make checks payable to the order of “(the candidates name) for Congress” and mail to the address below. For on line contributions go to their website.
Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV)
Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)
Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD)
Congressman Zack Space (D-OH)
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA)
Jane Mitakides (D-OH)
Dina Titus (D-NV)
Jim Trakas (R-OH)
Gene Rossides is President of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.
Op-Ed: Support Our Greek American Candidates for Congress