GLENDALE — When I moved to California years ago, it was in time for the elections for different political offices. While Armenian community members were doubting whether this or that fellow member will represent the community’s interests the best, one non-Armenian name was getting top marks on the ballot: Anthony Portantino.
In the case of Anthony Portantino, that devotion was anything but usual. I even thought that he might have Armenian ancestors (you know, that’s how it ends in most cases with us). But it turned out that Senator Portantino, whose ancestors are from Italy, learned about Armenians when he was a child growing up in New Jersey. His mother was somehow knew about the Near East Relief and the Armenian Genocide and she passed on all her knowledge to Anthony about this as well as about New Jersey native son President Woodrow Wilson.
Portantino carried all these memories with him when he moved to California in 1999 and was elected to the La Canada City Council. After that, one thing led to another. He was invited to a Genocide commemoration event at the Sisters’ Academy, a private Armenian school in Glendale. Some of the Armenian community members at the event were from New Jersey. “That’s how I started to get involved in the community. One relationship led to another. Arda, who works for me now, I met her father at that meeting. It’s been a wonderful relationship. People say welcome, you say welcome back!” Portantino said.
Portantino represents California’s 25th State Senate District, starting in 2016 after winning the race against Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich. Public education, mental health and gun control are the priorities that his office has been focusing on for years.
Along with hosting the Armenian Select Committee in his district, Portantino supported the Armenian community through various legislations, securing funds and assistance, condemning violence and spreading the awareness about the Armenian Genocide. On June 1 Senator Portantino signed a memorandum of Understanding with the Governor’s office and Impact Hub Armenian Social Innovation Development Foundation to establish a Trade and Services Desk in Armenia.
“Coming out of what happened in Armenia (the senator is adamant to use the Armenian name Hayastan) for the last four years both politically and also with the war, it’s important that California and Armenia have a good partnership. There is a mutual benefit: we share democracy, we have nearly a million of citizens of Armenian heritage in California, so many of our business leaders have businesses there and here.” The senator calls it symbolic and a complementary relationship.