Greek Americans gain a seat in the House of Representatives and all major friends re-elected
Washington, D.C.- The National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH) released an analysis of how the U.S. Congress changed, following the elections on November 4, particularly with regard to Greece and Cyprusʼ top advocates (and detractors) and how Hellenic and Orthodox issues may be handled differently with the new line-up.
While a number of our strongest supporters seemed vulnerable to being defeated, including those on the key Committees and Subcommittees that handle U.S. policy toward Cyprus, almost all were re-elected. As well, of the over 59 Members of Congress and 10 Senators who will not be in office next year (because they were defeated, elected to another office or are retiring), very few were strong supporters. In fact, a vast majority had not been engaged in Hellenic and Orthodox issues at all.
In the end, the greatest determinant of how Hellenic and Orthodox issues may be handled differently in the 111th Congress (2009 – 2010) will be who are the Chairmen, Ranking Members, and Members of the key Committees and Subcommittees that handle the Cyprus issue. These changes are just beginning and wonʼt be finalized until December or later.
All six “Greek-Americans” in the House and Senate will remain. Greek-Americans Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Zack Space (D-OH) were re-elected, with 63%, 70% and 60% of the vote, respectively. At the beginning of this election cycle, Congressman Space was one of the top three Members of Congress targeted by the Republican party to defeat, as he was elected in a traditionally Republican district. However, he ran an excellent campaign and won by a wide margin. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV), whose family is from the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, Greece, was re-elected with 68% of the vote. Greek Orthodox Christian, and wife of a former Greek-American Senator and Presidential candidate, Niki Tsongas (D-MA), was re-elected, running unopposed. In the U.S. Senate, Greek-American Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) was not up for re-election (and will not be so until 2012).
And there will be two new “Greek-Americans” in the 111th Congress. Greek-American Dina Titus (D-NV), for whom Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Congresswoman Berkley campaigned very hard, won with 47% of the vote over 5 other challengers, the closest of whom was incumbent Congressman Jon Porter who received 42% of the vote. Dinaʼs grandfather, Arthur Costandinos Cathones, after whom she is named, came to America in 1911. As well, Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) defeated Congressman Tom Feeney 57% to 41%. While Suzanne is not Greek, her ex-husband, with whom she had four children and still keeps in touch, is.
Two other “Greek-Americans” were unsuccessful in their run for Congress. Greek-American Jim Trakas (R-OH) lost to Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) 57% to 39% and Jane Mitakides (D-OH), who is married to a Greek-American, lost to Congressman Michael Turner (R-OH) 64% to 36%.
Other Strong Supporters
Just weeks before the election, four of our top supporters (who had “A+” grades for their support of our issues) were on the list of the top 25 most likely Republican Members of Congress to lose. Three of them survived. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) won with 58% and 53% of the vote, respectively. And, Congressman Henry Brown (R-SC) won with 54% of the vote. Unfortunately, Congressman Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), who was also a member of the crucial House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, was defeated 52% to 43%.
Two other advocates who play a crucial role in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy toward Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, were soundly re-elected despite being considered vulnerable in recent months. House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) won with 58%. Chairman of the House Europe Subcommittee, Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL), won with 66% of the vote, against two opponents. While Chairman Wexler is the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Turkish Issues, he has also engaged the Greek-American community and has taken a positive step on all of the major Hellenic and Orthodox issues.
The most significant change, from the Congressional perspective only, will be the loss of Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), who was elected as Vice President of the United States. Senator Bidenʼs advocacy for Hellenic and Orthodox issues is legendary. After former Senator Paul Sarbanes and current Senators Bob Menendez and Hellene Olympia Snowe, no one in the Senate surpasses Joe Biden, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in terms of advocacy for our issues. As well, the loss in the U.S. Senate of Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), who was elected President of the United States, and was the Chairman of the Senate European Affairs Subcommittee, will be significant. Obviously, the movement of these Senators into the positions of President and Vice President will enable them to have an even more profound impact on our issues.
In addition, five other Republican Senators with “B+” grades for their support of Hellenic and Orthodox issues, will not be serving in the 111th Congress. This is somewhat significant, as far fewer Republican Senators have been supportive. Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and John Sununu (R-NH) were defeated, and Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Pete Domenici (R-NM) and John Warner (R-VA) retired.
Key Committees and Subcommittees
While the Chairman, Ranking Members and Members of the key Committees and Subcommittees that handle U.S. policy toward Cyprus, Greece and Turkey will not be finalized until next month, if not later, there are some significant changes already.
As mentioned earlier, in the Senate the Chairman of both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate European Affairs Subcommittee will be new. Also, there will likely be several open slots to fill on that full Committee. As well, in the Senate, Turkeyʼs number one advocate, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), recently agreed to step down as Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.