Following yesterday’s election results in Beverly Hills, the only two Iranian Jewish candidates for the city council race had very poor showings as a result of low voter turnout and a lack of excitement for this campaigns. While one Iranian Jewish candidate, Fran Cohen received only 7% of the total votes cast and came in 7th place, businessman Michael Hakim came in 8th place with only 4% of the votes cast according to Beverly Hills City election records. While Iranian residents (many of whom are Jewish) cast more than 50% of the votes in the February 2007 city elections, the results of this year’s elections reveal a lack of interest by the community to come out and vote. The former city Mayor and current city councilmember Jimmy Delshad seems to be the one and only Iranian Jewish candidate who has until now been able to win a seat in back to back elections. He explained this unique phenomenon during my last interview with him:
“I don’t see as much excitement this time around among the Persians. Last time I ran, it was different because there were only two open places on the council, with three Persian candidates running — and you’ve got to remember that there was real excitement in the community about my mayorship if I were elected.”
On an interesting note, Paul Koretz, the Jewish candidate for the Los Angeles City Council’s 5th seat who had been courting Iranian Jews and other Iranians for votes in yesterday’s election was successful in winning one of the two spots for the run-off May 2009 race. There’s no doubt that his outreach to the local Iranian community—many of whom are primarily located in his district, paid off.
Up until 2000, the Iranian Jewish community in Southern California was by in large not politically active and not involved in political groups. However, since then things have gradually changed and the community has become an important voting block in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. Viable candidates are increasingly courting the community for their votes and financial contributions. Time will only tell if young Iranian Jews in the area who are now accomplished doctors, lawyers and real estate developers will be throwing their hats in for local and state elections.
My recent podcast interview with Delshad, Cohen and Hakim can be heard here.