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The Greek-American Candidates for 2010 Congress Election

In the USA it is estimated that about 3,000,000 people are of Greek descent. Ten Greek-Americans are running for Congress and are asking for your vote in the upcoming election which will take place on November 2nd. Eight candidates are competing for the House of Representatives and two for the U.S. Senate. Most polls are showing that the House of Representatives will go Republican, but the Senate will remain under the control of the Democratic party.

Rochelle “Shelley” Berkley has been a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives since 1999, representing the First Congressional District of Nevada.  Her district includes most of the city of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Strip. Her grandmother was from Thessaloníki and was part of the Greek Jewish community there. Berkley was born in New York City and moved with her family to Nevada when she was a junior high school student. She attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and earned a degree in political science and served as the UNLV Student Body President. She then entered the University of San Diego, graduating with a degree in law. She served in the Nevada Assembly from 1982 to 1984 and was involved in local civic affairs. While in the state legislature, she advocated consumer safety laws, campaigned against drunken driving, and founded the Senior Law Project. Berkley was also appointed vice chair of the Nevada University System Board of Regents, serving at the position from 1990 to 1998. Elected to the House in 1998, she serves in the Committees on Veterans’ Affairs and Ways and Means. As a representative, Berkley views her top priorities as the fight for affordable health care coverage for all Americans, veteran’s rights, and alternative energy. Berkley is known as one of the supporters of the drive to regulate online gambling.

Gus Bilirakis was born on February 8, 1963 in Gainesville, Florida. He is a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives for Florida’s 9th congressional district. Bilirakis was elected as a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives to replace his father Mike Bilirakis, who did not run for reelection after 23 years in the United States Congress. Before being elected to Congress, Gus Bilirakis had been a member of the Florida House of Representatives since 1998. He grew up in Tarpon Springs, Florida as the second-generation son of Greek immigrants. His grandfather opened a bakery in Tarpon Springs. At an early age Bilirakis began working at his family’s bakery. He attended Tampa Bay area public schools and continued to work in his grandfather’s bakery during his childhood. Bilirakis graduated from Tarpon Springs High School and St. Petersburg Junior College. He then attended the University of Florida, where he graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He received his law degree from Stetson University College of Law in 1989. Bilirakis has a Tampa Bay area law practice titled the Bilirakis Law Group.  The firm specializes in probate and estate planning, which he took over from his father. He has helped run his father’s campaigns for the past 23 years. He is the co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus.

John Peter Spyros Sarbanes has represented the third district of Maryland in the United States House of Representatives since 2007. The district includes the state capital of Annapolis, central portions of the city of Baltimore, and parts of Howard and Baltimore counties. Sarbanes was born in Baltimore on May 22, 1961 and is the eldest son of former U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes. He received a B.A. cum laude from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in 1984 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1988. Sarbanes lives in Towson, Maryland with his three children and wife Dina, who he met at Harvard and wed in 1988. Dina Sarbanes is an Assistant County Attorney with the Baltimore County Attorney’s office. Sarbanes sought the Democratic nomination for Maryland’s third congressional district after incumbent representative Ben Cardin chose not to seek re-election in order to run for the United States Senate seat of John Sarbanes’ father, Paul Sarbanes.

Zack Space of Dover, Ohio, is an American politician of the Democratic Party and presently serves in the U.S. House of Representatives for Ohio’s 18th congressional district. Space won the seat in the November 7, 2006 election, defeating state Senator Joy Padgett. Born in Dover, Ohio in 1961, Space is the son of Socrates Space and Sandra Gallion. His grandparents immigrated to the United States from Greece in the early years of the 20th century. His grandfather and namesake Zacharias Space, earned U.S. citizenship through service in World War I. Space attended Kenyon College in Knox County. While earning a degree in political science, he was awarded All-American honors in football and was named the 1982 Athlete of the Year at Kenyon. After his graduation from Kenyon, Space enrolled at Ohio State University College of Law and earned his Juris Doctor in 1986. He is married to Mary Wade.  Wade is the first woman judge in Tuscarawas County history.

Niki Tsongas is the U.S. Representative for Massachusetts’s 5th congressional district and the widow of Greek-American U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas. She has three Greek-American daughters and she calls herself “Greek by Osmosis”.  She is the first woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts in 25 years and the first female Democrat elected to Congress from the state in 35 years. Niki was born to Marian Susan Wyman, an artist and copywriter, and Colonel Russell Elmer Sauvage, an engineer in the United States Air Force who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. She was a 1964 graduate of Narimasu American High School in Japan while her father was stationed at Fuchu Air Force Base. Niki attended one year at Michigan State before attending Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. After graduating from Smith College in 1968, she moved to New York City where she took a job as a social worker for the Department of Welfare. Niki has a law degree from Boston University and started Lowell’s first all female law practice.

Jim Trakas is a former member of the Ohio House of Representatives, and is the Republican nominee for the United States House of Representatives in Ohio’s 10th congressional district. He is a 1987 graduate of Ohio State University where he earned a B.A. in Social and Behavioral Sciences. In 1996 Trakas was elected Chairman of The Republican Party of Cuyahoga County where he served until 2005. In 1998 Trakas was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives representing the 15th district, later renumbered the 17th district, where he served until 2007. Trakas won the Republican Primary by 79.31% of the vote and stands a very good chance to get elected. He is a member of the Order of AHEPA and the American Hellenic Institute.

Costandina “Dina” Titus started her career in politics as a Democratic member of the Nevada Senate, representing Clark County District 7 since 1988. She has been the Minority Leader since 1993. She is also a political science professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She has taught American and Nevada government at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for 30 years. Before her recent congressional run, she was considered likely to seek a rematch with current Republican governor Jim Gibbons in 2010. Gibbons defeated her in the 2006 gubernatorial campaign. On May 1, 2008, Dina Titus announced that she will challenge Jon Porter for the Third Congressional Seat in Nevada. The announcement was made in the Henderson Events Plaza Amphitheater, just below the Henderson Veterans Memorial.  The Memorial is where she reminded her supporters that it was the fifth anniversary of Bush’s pronouncement of “mission accomplished” in Iraq. Her Greek grandfather ran a restaurant in Tifton, Georgia where she was born.

Suzan M. Kosmas(D) is the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 24th congressional district, serving since 2009. In the 2008 election she made her fiscal conservatism a mainstay of her campaign. She previously served in the Florida House of Representatives. Kosmas has lived in New Smyrna Beach since 1973. She has owned a real estate company named Prestige Properties of New Smyrna Beach since 1979. Kosmas graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stetson University in 1998.

Dean Scontras, R, Maine 1st District. Dean also ran in the 2008 congressional elections. Dean Scontras was born and raised in Kittery, Maine. Scontras was the youngest of 7 children. He attended Traip Academy, where he was a multi-sport athlete and the Vice President of the National Honor Society. He went on to the University of Maine where he majored in both Public Management and Political Science. Shortly after graduation Scontras moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for several different technology start-ups. During this time, Dean attended Georgetown University to continue his education in Public Policy. Dean and his wife Dawn, along with their two children moved back to Maine in 2005. In 2008 Scontras mounted a campaign for U.S. Congress that was nationally recognized for its online presence and its use of modern technology. Today Dean is the co-owner of an alternative energy company that specializes in the development of wind farm and smart grid technology that will help Maine towns capture the benefits of distributed energy solutions.

Governor Charlie Crist is running as Independent for the senate seat of Florida. Governor Crist was born in 1956 in Altoona, Pennsylvania.  He spent his childhood in St. Petersburg, where he was class president at St. Petersburg High School and later student body vice president at Florida State University. He received his undergraduate degree from Florida State in 1978. Governor Crist earned his law degree from the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama. His original Greek family name is Christodoulou and then was changed to Christ.

In Illinois Democrat Alexi Giannoulias is battling Republican Mark Kirk for Obama’s old Senate seat. “Alexi” Giannoulias who was born on March 16, 1976 is the Illinois State Treasurer. A Democrat, Giannoulias defeated Republican candidate State Senator Christine Radogno in November 2006 with 54% of the vote, becoming the first Democrat to hold the office in 12 years and at the age of 30, the youngest State Treasurer in the nation. On July 26, 2009 Giannoulias announced his candidacy in the 2010 election for the seat in the United States Senate currently held by Roland Burris. Burris who was appointed by Governor Rod Blagojevich to fill the seat vacated by Barack Obama following Obama’s election as President of the United States, has chosen not to seek election.
Giannoulias was born in Chicago to Greek immigrants. His mother Anna is from Chania.  His late father Alexis was from Kalavryta. Giannoulias attended The Latin School of Chicago and then the University of Chicago before transferring to Boston University. Giannoulias graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Economics. He then moved to Greece to play basketball in Panionios B.C. Greece for a year between 1998–99. After returning from Greece, Giannoulias attended Tulane University Law School. After earning his law degree, Alexi returned to Chicago to help manage Broadway Bank.  The Bank is a community bank in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood that was founded by his father in 1979.

Additionally there are many Greek- Americans running in local races across the USA.

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