Home Community Philip Christopher: In the Midterm Elections Protect our Friends who are Good...

Philip Christopher: In the Midterm Elections Protect our Friends who are Good for Greece and Cyprus

By Stavros H. Papagermanos

NEW YORK –Philip Christopher, a successful businessman, is highly regarded in our Community for his long and indefatigable advocacy for Greece and Cyprus. He is president of the International Coordinating Committee-Justice for Cyprus and of the Pancyprian Association of America. Mr. Christopher spoke to Greek News USA about the crucial 2022 Midterm elections, the challenges that arise, and how they might affect our national issues.

  • From the point of view of the Greek American Community, what is your overall assessment of the upcoming midterm elections?

The election next Tuesday is really about protecting the friends of Greece and Cyprus in the United States Congress. I know many people look at this from the Republican side, or the Democratic side, progressive, liberal, conservative. As far as I’m concerned, I only look at the elections from one point of view: Who are the members of the United States Congress in the House of Representatives and the Senate, that support our issues vis-à-vis Greece, Cyprus and the Patriarchate.

  • Who are the Greek American candidates who are running for elected office and what are our concerns?

As you know we have Charlie Crist running for Governor in Florida. I would’ve rather seen him stay in the United States Congress because he was effective and he was helping us. In regards to the other members of Congress, John Sarbanes seems to be doing well, he’s very solid. Gus Bilirakis is doing okay as well, in Florida. The ones that I’m worried about is Chris Pappas in New Hampshire, Nicole Malliotakis of course, in New York, and Dina Titus in Nevada. These three are facing very difficult elections.

Nicole Malliotakis is facing the same opponent as last time, the polls have her ahead, and we think she’s going to win. Chris Pappas, on the other hand, is a Democrat, he’s facing a very tough election from a young lady on the Republican side who is endorsed by Donald Trump, but Chris is ahead by a few points, and we hope he’s going to stay there. As far as Dina Titus in Nevada, she’s in serious danger. There that race is really too close to call.

  • How can these elections affect our Greek American issues and what do we focus on?

Our work this past year, was basically to get close to both Democrats and Republicans that are in the key committees. The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is a key committee for us, and we all know the role of Senator Menendez as chairman, the good thing is Menendez is not up for reelection until 2024.

I’m concerned that if the Republicans take over the Senate he will no longer be the chairman of the committee. He will be the minority ranking member of the committee and that will be a big blow for us. Yes, he will still be effective, but less so. That’s why we are working so hard in Pennsylvania to defeat Dr. Oz, prevent him from winning the Senate seat, because for us it could be a double whammy.  If he wins, it might give the Republicans the majority in the Senate, and more importantly, is having a Turkish citizen in the Senate, who has served in the Turkish military, who feels the way he feels about Turkey and Erdogan… really if elected, he is going to be a thorn on our side.

  • How can one senator make such a big difference?

Yes, one senator can make a difference. We saw that repeatedly how one individual, Senator Menendez can make a huge difference. Oz has a celebrity status and being in the Senate will not be good.  We are helping Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman to defeat Oz. Fetterman started off being 15 percentage points ahead and now the race neck and neck.

  • How about the House of Representatives?

On the House side, we are working very closely with Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX-10th Congressional District), who is currently the Republican leader on the Foreign Affairs Committee. If the Republicans take over the House, he will be the chairman of this committee.   Nicole Malliotakis has a good relationship with him. A big fundraiser took place in Houston, Texas last week, and many of us contributed and tried to make sure that McCaul remembers this if he becomes chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House.

Moreover, we thankfully have good friends in Congress that we continue to support and are powerful, friends like Sen. Chris Van Hollen in Maryland, and there is no issue there. Likewise, we support friends like Rep. Frank Pallone, and Chris Smith in New Jersey, who are doing well. Of course we lost Rep. Carolyn Maloney who was the co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus. After the elections it has to be decided who will be the co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus along with Rep. Gus Billirakis. To Carolyn Maloney we owe a great deal of gratitude because in her 30 years in office, she did a fantastic job for the Hellenic causes. We will look at that and see who will be the best person to take that role. We need a member from the Democratic Party to be the co-chair. Some people say that Chris Pappas who has been so effective on our issues, could be the one. That is one possibility. Some say it may be better not to have a Greek-American, but instead a non-Greek-American philhellene. We are looking at Frank Pallone, who is also the chairman of the Armenian caucus. Congressman John Sarbanes’ input will be very important in this decision, since he is the oldest statesman and because John has been terrific for the Greek issues.

  • How do we plan to deal with the challenges that arise from change in the political scene as we face pressing issues in Greece and Cyprus?

As I started explaining we have an alternate plan, it is really very simple. The most important thing is that if the Republicans are going to take over the House we have to be able to effectively work with members in key committees.  The key committees of concern for Greece and Cyprus are the Foreign Affairs, the Armed Services Committee, and the Appropriations Committee; these are the ones. The major issue right now is to continue our efforts to stop the sale of the F-16s fighter jets to Turkey. We have to do that. We accomplished lifting the embargo on Cyprus, the relations between the Unites States, Greece and Cyprus are in an all-time high. We are in a good position.

Of course, we understand what is going on in Turkey with the elections there, Erdogan continues to be very aggressive and arrogant in his positions. Our biggest concern right now is that on November 15, is the anniversary of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of the so-called Turkish republic of northern Cyprus. I am concerned about Erdogan following the way and example of Putin in Ukraine when he annexed Crimea or as he is holding these so-called referendums and annexing more parts of Ukraine. We are very worried that Erdogan will be announcing the annexation of the occupied area. And if not that, even the annexation completely of the Famagusta area. After 48 years that is going to be a big blow for us; for the occupied area of Cyprus to be annexed part of Turkey.

We are working on these developments and we are going to hold a conference after the election in Washington to meet the new members of the U.S. Congress. There may be 30 or so new members out of the 435 members of Congress. We have to continually educate new members coming in, members that really know nothing about the Cyprus issue or the problems that Greece is facing in the Aegean.

To summarize, the objective of these elections is to protect all our friends in the U.S. Congress and make sure all Greek-Americans are re-elected. As I said earlier, we are losing Charlie Crist who runs for Governor, so we will have one less Greek-American in Congress. I am hopeful that in Oregon we might gain another one, Alek Skarlatos who is running for Congress in the 4th Congressional District there. He is the one who rose to prominence in 2015, after he and five other people stopped an attempted terrorist attack on a train heading for Paris, in France.

What I would like to emphasize to all Greek-Americans and I always say this: You can be Republican, you can be a Democrat, you can be liberal or conservative and that’s fine; but when it comes to elections, when we have to protect someone that’s good for Greece and Cyprus, we have to remember that we are Greek-Americans first.