NEW YORK.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Harry Scolinos is another Greek American, seeking election in Congress, in California’s infamous 29th District, that covers the Pasadena area. It has been the battleground for the costly ever race for Congress, in 2000. Harry Scolino, who won easily the Republican nomination a three way race, is a successful attorney and a small businessman. Since 1999 he has built, from the ground up, the largest mobile livescan fingerprinting service in the United States. He is a decorated Vietnam veteran, born in 1944 in Los Angeles, California to Mary and Peter Scolinos, his first generation, Greek immigrants parents. The Scolinos family built a home in San Gabriel, California in 1947 and Harry’s mother still lives in that same house today.
His grand father came to the United States through Ellis Island and he opened up a little fruit stand to Los Angeles. First he went to Pittsburg and he worked in the steel mills. The work conditions were so hard, that he lost his balance and fell in. He threw off his apron and walked off the job, sold everything he had and got on a train coming came to Los Angeles. His father started working as a truck driver and then he became a salesman.
Harry grew up in San Gabriel and attended public schools at Washington and Coolidge Grammar Schools. He played both baseball and football at San Gabriel High School where he graduated in 1962. Harry went on to college at Cal Poly, Pomona where he was student body Vice-President. He graduated from Cal Poly, Pomona in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Science.
Harry Scolinos who attends services in St Sophia Cathedral, in Los Angeles, has the support of the Greek Americans of California and especially Alex Spanos. Scolinos spoke to the Greek News about his race and his vision.
You are a lawyer you have a beautiful family, 5 children, how did you decide to run for Congress?
A: Well besides being a lawyer, I’m also a small business man. I have a small business called U.S. Fingerprinting, which we do computerized fingerprinting for government entities and we download it to the FBI computers and the Department of Justice computers. So we enjoyed our life out here, my wife and I like to say we have 5 children and 2 grandchildren, and our youngest child of the 5 went away to college about 2 years ago. So at that time we started talking and I’m very blessed with the business I have, we have a good business a good practice, I have some very good partners.
I’m 60 now. So we got invited to the White House to have breakfast, this was about 2 years ago. And the area is just below the oval office in an area called the White House nest and that’s where the president and his immediate staff have breakfast and lunch and we were invited to have breakfast there and have a chat with the gentleman and ask a lot of questions and we left.
We had a great time there and that afternoon I got a call on my cell phone asking me to come back to the White House, they want to talk to me, evidently the gentleman I was talking to was quite aware of the the Congressional District because it was kind of an infamous congressional district. It was held by a gentleman named Jim Rogan who was the prosecuting attorney against Clinton in the impeachment proceedings and his seat was targeted by Democrats. It was the most expensive congressional race ever. The Democrats put in something like 6 million dollars, the Republicans put in 3 million, so a total of 9 million dollars was put in for a congressional seat in 2000. And Jim Rogan lost.
He was aware of the area, and they liked the fact that I am a member of the NAACP. I am on a lot of nonprofit boards, I’m a different Republican, I’m not a cookie-cutter Republican. They also liked the fact that I belong to these different organizations, and that I grew up in the district. I’ve worked for the government and so we listened to him and we said that we’ll think about it.
We went back to Washington three more times in the next year, we met with different people and a year later we decided that this is what we are going to do. So about a year ago we decided that we are going to run and we are fortunate enough in the process, in the primary I had 2 opponents, we got about 60% of the votes. And we’ve just been working hard ever since.
Q: From what I see, you’re opponent is also a different type of Democrat. I saw him as a freshman he was along with a Republican he promoted a bill, etc… So how you differentiate with him in the issues? Well what is your main issue and your main point against him?
A: Well he is not so much a different type of a Democrat he is very much in tune with the Democrats, as far as the taxes and the economy. We differ on a lot of issues. Let’s talk first about the economy. He voted against making the child tax credit permanent, I’m for that he voted against jobs and growth, I’m for that. I’m very much not in favor of any new taxes, I think the government has plenty of money right now and what they don’t need is more money to waste and the government wastes too much money. I like the concept of left government and more money to the people and I think that’s one of the reasons our economy has been so positive lately, is from the president’s tax relief that has worked.
On supporting our troops in Iraq. I served in Vietnam and we had a situation where there was division back home and that played right into the hands of the North Vietnamese. They knew that the more problems they created, the more division there would be back home. And when my opponent voted against the 87.5 million Iraqi reconstruction bill – which was both for Iraq and Afghanistan – he sent a message to the troops saying look there is division back home, but he sent a louder message to the terrorists saying keep up the bombings in Baghdad and you’ll create division back home.
And so that’s why it is very important we do not show that were divided but that were united.
He is against keeping “one nation under God” in the pledge of allegiance; I am of course for that.
He is in favor of same-sex marriages; I am in favor of civil unions, and keeping marriage between a man and a woman.
He was in favor of partial birth abortion, and even though I am pro-choice, I am against partial birth abortion.
Those are the social issues that we differ on. Prescription drugs for seniors, he voted against that bill. I am 60 years old, I’m not a senior I’m getting close to being a senior, and even though the bill wasn’t a perfect solution, to the many problems that we have, it was a step in the right direction.
In Washington, we have a problem is with these career politicians. We have what I call paralysis by analysis. They’re paralyzed and they don’t do anything. And the reason why the don’t do anything is because they are so concerned about what posts and what office they are going to be elected to next and how their vote is going to be construed that they do absolutely nothing.
Q: How is the Greek American community of your area reacted to your candidacy? Do you get any help, I check on your contributions on the list, I see a few named but not many.
A: Well, we have, we received over 1000 different contributors. A great percentage of them are Greek Americans. We have had more support from the Greek American community from any community in our district. And Greek Americans outside our district Alex Spanos has supported us and which is very encouraging to us. We went to San Francisco and a group of Greek Americans in San Francisco through a fundraiser for us, and they supported it. We have probably 3 or 4 Greek American fundraisers in our district and I have another one tonight. So I think all the different groups of individuals that we’ve presented our campaign to Greek Americans are supporting us the most of any group.
Q: As you said before, your district is the interest of the 2000 campaign, what are your expectations for this year? I understand there have been changes in California as far as changes with the new governor; each presidential year California usually votes democratic how do you expect all these things to affect the campaign?
A: Well last night I had dinner with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. We met at a small dinner party over on the west side. And we talked about the campaign and he certainly knows exactly what’s going on in our state. The Governor when he was elected created a wave, we don’t think it’s a tsunami, but he has created a wave for Moderate Republicans. Pro-business republicans, which I am. The governor and I, we discussed last night that he’s aware of our similarities and our backgrounds. We are both businessmen, we have raising our families very much a priority to us, I’ve been married to my sweet wife whose also Greek-American for 36 years and that’s a real priority to us. Also a priority is our country, the state that we live in, and we both decided that our careers, we’ve been blessed with the business career that we’ve had, that there’s things more important, that is to try to help and to give back to our country and that’s what we’ve both intended to do.
We have to wait and see what kind of a wave that he’s created. It is very important that the voters turn out on November the 2nd. There are a lot of things that are out of our control such as the results, we started at 17% points behind the incumbent, as of now we are down to 7% points behind and we are closing, so we’re right where we want to be. And it’s tough to defeat an incumbent, but I have a great campaign staff and they work very hard and that’s why we’ve been able to close the gap as much as we have. And we have some great momentum in our favor. So we’ll wait and see what happens on November 2nd, if there appears to be a Bush victory on the east coast and is communicated here on the west coast, there is a chance that some democrats will not go to the polls and we’ll help us.
Q: I think Congressman Bilirakis is waiting for you.
A: You can tell Mike, my friend, that the first person I am going to go up to and hug if I get in Congress is Mike Bilirakis. He’s been a true friend and a supporter and I met with Mike when I was deciding whether or not to run, he was the one who encouraged me to run so if I’m fortunate enough to win I’m going to find Mike and give him a hug.