By Metodija A. Koloski, UMD President
Tuesday’s midterm elections were a sweeping win for the Republican Party, which gained control of the U.S. Senate, for the first time since 2007, with 52 (potentially 53) seats, and as expected, an even greater majority in the U.S. House of Representatives (could potentially hold 248 seats up from 233), its largest number since World War II. The Republican Party also picked up governorships in a number of states, for a total of 31. The Democratic Party will hold 43-45 seats in the Senate, between 180-187 in the House, and 17 governorships.
What do these elections mean for the Macedonian-American community?
The United States is home to approximately half a million Americans of Macedonian heritage, with large pockets in the States of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, and smaller communities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
Since losing Senator Dennis DeConcini of Arizona (Democrat) Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana (Republican), and Senator George Voinovich of Ohio (Republican), the Macedonian-American community has lacked top proponents or champions in the U.S. Senate on Macedonian issues.
Senator Mark Begich of Alaska (Democrat), who is Croatian by heritage, and a huge supporter of Macedonia’s NATO membership, lost to Dan Sullivan (Republican).
Senators James Inhofe of Oklahoma (Republican) and James Risch of Idaho (Republican), who have supported Macedonia’s NATO membership in the past, were re-elected. Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire (Democrat), who has visited Macedonia in the past and has been a proponent of Macedonia’s NATO membership, was re-elected. Also re-elected was Senator Al Franken of Minnesota (Democrat), who has visited Macedonia in the past as well.
In addition to Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois (Republican), Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont (Democrat), Senator John McCain of Arizona (Republican), Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut (Democrat) and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida (Republican), who were not up for re-election this year, the Macedonian-American community will gain another two friends in the U.S. Senate – Senator-elect Tom Cotton of Arkansas (Republican) and Senator-elect Gary Peters of Michigan (Democrat).
In February 2014, Congressman Cotton joined 39 other members of Congress in urging Secretary John Kerry to continue efforts to make NATO enlargement, including for Macedonia, a key priority for the United States.
Since being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008, Congressman Peters has supported every Congressional effort on Macedonia’s NATO membership, including co-sponsorship of H. Res. 543 affirming U.S. support for Macedonia’s NATO aspirations, and signing onto letters to President Obama since 2010, and the February 2014 NATO enlargement letter to Secretary Kerry. He attended and gave remarks at the 39th American-Canadian Macedonian Orthodox Diocese Convention in Detroit in 2013, which was also attended by Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
Another interesting outcome to follow will be the results of Virginia’s U.S. Senate race between Senator Mark Warner (Democrat) and Ed Gillespie (Republican). Results show Senator Warner winning by less than 1% of the vote, and media speculate a re-count (Gillespie conceded to Warner on November 7, 2014). During the campaign season, Senator Warner used a televised advertisement that showed flags of several countries, including Macedonia, as a means to try to discredit Mr. Gillespie as a foreign lobbyist. Mr. Gillespie, together with Democratic Party strategist Jack Quinn – through their public affairs firm Quinn Gillespie Associated (QGA) — represented, among others, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia nearly a decade ago.
On the U.S. House of Representatives side, out of the twenty-one members of the Congressional Caucus on Macedonia and Macedonian-Americans, founded in 2011 by Congresswoman Candice Miller of Michigan (Republican), all members won their re-election except Congressman Dan Maffei of New York (Democrat) and Congressman Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan (Republican), who also lost his party’s nomination for the seat earlier in the summer.
Current Macedonia Caucus member Congressman James Moran of Virginia (Democrat) is retiring and not returning to Congress in January, and will be replaced by Ambassador Don Beyer (Democrat) who won Moran’s seat.
Champions of Macedonian-American issues — Congresswoman Candice Miller, Congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey (Democrat), Congressman Michael Turner of Ohio (Republican), and Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida (Democrat) — won their re-elections.
In April 2014, Congresswoman Miller introduced H. Res. 543 to affirm U.S. support of Macedonia’s NATO aspirations. Out of the sixteen co-sponsors, only Congressman Bentivolio will not be returning to Congress in 2015, and Congressman Peters will move on to the Senate. H. Res. 543 was referred to the House Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats in June 2014. Five members of Congress co-sponsored H. Res. 543 since June.
The upcoming 114th Congress looks promising for Macedonian-American issues. Top priorities for the 2015-2016 period will be increasing the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Macedonia, especially in terms of investments and trade, affirming clear U.S. support for Macedonia’s NATO membership, despite Greek objections, advancing the possibility of Macedonia being added to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, and ensuring that Macedonians have equal human rights and religious freedom in countries where they live, particularly those monitored by the U.S. Helsinki Commission, which Macedonia Caucus member Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey (Republican), also re-elected, chairs.
On behalf of all Macedonian-Americans, congratulations to everyone who won in the 2014 midterm elections and thank you for your continued friendship to the Macedonian-American community, and through our community, to Macedonia. We thank everyone who will not be returning to the U.S. Congress in 2015 for their service to the American people and our nation.