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Gatto, Ramani build blocs

Candidates in special election turn their focus to the Armenian community.

May 04, 2010|By Zain Shauk

Armenian American voters have become a key focus for the two candidates running in the June 8 special runoff election for state Assembly, with both attending major community events and winning over key representatives for endorsements.

With Glendale school board member Nayiri Nahabedian — the top Armenian American candidate in the April 13 primary — out of the contest, Republican Sunder Ramani, a small-business owner and past president of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, and Democrat Mike Gatto, an attorney and former district director for Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), have increased their outreach to Nahabedian’s main constituency.

Neither Gatto, who is of Italian descent, nor Ramani, an Indian American, placed a strong emphasis on marketing specifically to Armenian American voters ahead of the primary, as Nahabedian and Democrat Chahe Keuroghelian crowded out that competition.

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But both runoff candidates attended an Armenian Genocide commemorative event April 23 at the Alex Theatre and have subsequently met with Armenian organizations and representatives to earn their support.

Ramani attended three Armenian Genocide commemorative events on April 24, the day that marks the start of the 1915 genocide in which 1.5 million Armenians were killed at the hands of Ottoman Turks.

He was campaigning actively with fellow Republican and Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, and this week earned the endorsement of Glendale school board member Greg Krikorian, also a Republican.

Gatto earned the endorsement of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who has twice sponsored House resolutions to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Gatto said he did not attend any of the genocide-related events on April 24 because he did not want to “politicize” the commemorations.

He said the April 23 event he attended at the Alex Theatre allowed him to participate in commemorating the mass killings.

“If I go to a genocide commemoration it’s not to meet voters,” Gatto said. “It’s to commemorate the genocide.”

He instead attended the Downtown Burbank Arts Festival on April 24, he said.

“Whenever you’re running for office you’re pulled in many different directions, and I always want to look out for voters, but I don’t view a genocide commemoration as a campaign opportunity,” Gatto said.

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