Yegparian: Tales from the Trail

This is the campaign trail. Paul Krekorian’s—for LA’s second council district seat. Not the dirt kind (though by the time you’re done reading this you may wonder if there’s any difference)— my favored and favorite haunt to hike and mountain bike. Campaigns are always good for some interesting stories, good and bad, especially when dealing with a newly organizing, enfranchising community such as ours, and big money being poured into a race by the establishment, powers that be, in the given jurisdiction. So here goes, from quirky to grim to dumb.

There’s the guy who was out of town, getting back Sunday afternoon. He was playing (drums, if I recall) for a noted Armenian singer. This allowed barely enough time for him to get in his voter registration form, followed by an absentee ballot request form. His son was taken care of by me and his wife had long since been registered.

Then there’s the creepy guy who was sitting, working on a laptop. He had some connection to the family I was visiting, not clear what it was. The mom, visiting from overseas, was also in the room, just watching. The wife wanted to become a permanent absentee voter. I gave her the paperwork and got her set up. I was also going to register the husband to vote for the first time. But he said he didn’t want to. Of course, I tried to convince him of the value of being registered to vote in general and for the specific election at hand. But creepy-guy kept butting in and saying he didn’t have to. Finally, I turned around to creepy-guy and said, “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m not talking to you.” He finally shut up, though I stilled failed to get that registration. The oddest of it was that creepy-guy admitted to being registered and voting regularly!

We have the heartwarming-heartbreaking mix-up with the folks who probably lived just the other side of the street of the dividing line between council districts. Somehow, the family of three got on the campaign’s list of those who wanted to vote absentee. I went there, was forced to have steak and really good rice yegheents (pilav). Then the question arose over how to spell their last name because of some immigration mix-up. When I called to verify the spelling, we discovered the border issue. Oh well, they can’t vote for Krekorian, but now they’re permanent absentees, and I got the hospitality to boot!

Unsurprisingly of course there’s the unseemly side of things, as is often the case, born of desperation. Working Californians (WC), essentially a political arm of IBEW, one of the unions supporting Krekorian’s opponent, filed suit against the LA City Ethics Commission trying to overturn over 25 years worth of election law. WC claimed its freedom of speech was being impinged upon by contribution limits of $500, which applied not just to the candidates’ campaigns but also to other entities who want to conduct an independent expenditure campaign for or against a candidate. This is a union that ought to know better— that overturning such an ordinance would lead to it being outspent many times over in some future campaign by the big money interests. It’s a testament, I suspect, to how much of an IOU they felt they had to the establishment (remember, Christine Essel is the quintessential “establishment candidate”), which supported their (IBEW’s) efforts to pass a ballot measure that would have given their members much work. And, by the way, it was a good proposition. Unfortunately it didn’t pass. As it turns out though, U.S. District Court judge Dean D. Pregerson, who’s hearing this case, denied the temporary restraining order sought by the union. So the massive funding they had probably lined up, for what would probably have been a dirty hit piece, can no longer taint this race.

But, “coincidentally,” the same day as the court ruling, the Essel campaign issued a press release that truly scrapes the bottom of the barrel. Her campaign had released a press release claiming that a 10-year-old letter to her from then-State Assembly speaker Antonio Villaraigosa (now LA’s mayor) was stolen by the Krekorian campaign. The letter was evidently used in some Krekorian campaign literature. Maybe I’m ignorant, but isn’t a letter from the Speaker of the Assembly part of the public record? Even on, the reporter states, “The news release is unfortunately short on facts and long on accusations.” This is truly a sign of desperation. Who knows? This may have even been the same bit of foolishness that would have been mailed out to voters by WC had its ploy in court been successful.

Of course, pride will make one dumb, and I’m no exception. Thinking I knew roughly where an address on San Fernando Road was, I took off for it. Mind you, this road goes through multiple cities. The person I was to register had asked that we go to her place of work, since she wouldn’t be home. Off I went looking for the 4000 block. But the addresses jumped from 3000 (in Burbank) to 7000 (in LA). After three passes, I relented and called. Her brother answered. I learned the address was in Glendale. I put it off to the next day as it was getting late, confirming she’d be there. When I got to her, she’d left for Fresno, probably missing the registration deadline. I think the French would say merde.

The drunk guy was fun. I could tell over the phone, when I called to confirm he was home. He was incredibly accommodating, friendly, and helpful. He wanted to save me the trouble of visiting by just mailing the paperwork. I’m not sure he understood the part about being close to the deadline, but he asked me to come on over. Of course, he had his wife fill out the form and he just signed it. But he was psyched to help out a fellow Armenian. Tough though it was, I managed to avoid the food, soorj, and other offers of hospitality, then to leave and head for my next stop without igniting his breath.

To end on a quirkier campaign tale, let me tell you of the day when four scheduled visits to homes for registration and absentee voter work turned into a looping trip. All but one of the households was represented by their absence. I got neighbors registered, but to get to the original people, I had to keep going in circles through North Hollywood. No one ever said election work was un-irritating or easy…

Now we just have to keep up the hard work of getting people of good conscience and sense to vote—and vote for Paul Krekorian. Jump in. As I write this, there are only minutes more than exactly two weeks to when the polls close.

Contact the campaign by calling (818) 849-5200. Or just go there—13063 Victory Blvd.—any day from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.


Garen Yegparian

Asbarez Columnist
Garen Yegparian is a fat, bald guy who has too much to say and do for his own good. So, you know he loves mouthing off weekly about anything he damn well pleases to write about that he can remotely tie in to things Armenian. He's got a checkered past: principal of an Armenian school, project manager on a housing development, ANC-WR Executive Director, AYF Field worker (again on the left coast), Operations Director for a telecom startup, and a City of LA employee most recently (in three different departments so far). Plus, he's got delusions of breaking into electoral politics, meanwhile participating in other aspects of it and making sure to stay in trouble. His is a weekly column that appears originally in Asbarez, but has been republished to the Armenian Weekly for many years.

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