Five representatives of Greek descent are currently serving in the US Congress, and all of them are up for reelection on Tuesday in the hotly-contested 2020 elections.
Democrats John Sarbanes, Charlie Crist, Chris Pappas and Dina Titus are joined by the sole Greek-American Republican currently in Congress, Gus Bilirakis. There are also several Greek-Americans who are either running for Congress for the first time, or are running for other offices. Let’s take a closer look at them now.
Representative Gus Bilirakis (R- Florida, 12th District), a Republican from Palm Harbor, has represented Florida’s 12th Congressional District since 2006. He serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He is the Ranking Member of the VA Economic Opportunities Subcommittee and a Member of the VA Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, Health Subcommittee and Communications and Technology Subcommittee. Bilirakis was recently designated as the Most Effective Lawmaker in the State of Florida by the Center for Effective Lawmaking at Vanderbilt University.
John Sarbanes (D-Maryland, 3rd) Sarbanes, a Democrat, represents Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District. First assuming office on January 4, 2007, the Greek-American is running for re-election on Tuesday. Prior to his election to Congress, Sarbanes worked as an attorney and was chairman of his firm’s health care practice.
Sarbanes, the son of former Maryland senator Paul Sarbanes, was born in 1962 in Baltimore, MD. He earned his A.B. from Princeton University and his J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Charlie Crist (D-Florida, 13th) This veteran Greek-American politician currently represents Florida’s 13th district, covering Pinellas County from Clearwater down through St. Pete, where he grew up.
Crist was elected to the Florida State Senate in 1992, where he championed environmental protection issues and public education. In 2000, after two terms in the Florida Senate, he continued to push for education funding and better teachers’ pay as the state’s Education Commissioner. In 2002, he was elected Florida Attorney General.
When he served as Florida’s 44th Governor, he furthered his commitment to public education, using federal stimulus funding to save thousands of teachers’ jobs. Crist is also a staunch environmental advocate.
Dina Titus (D- Nevada -1st) Alice Constandina (Dina) Titus, has represented her Nevada district since 2013. She was born in 1950 in Thomasville, Georgia. A Democrat, she earned her degrees at William & Mary, the University of Georgia and Florida State University.
She served as U.S. Representative for Nevada’s 3rd congressional district from 2009 to 2011, when she was defeated by Joe Heck. She served in the Nevada Senate and was its minority leader from 1993 to 2009. Before her election to Congress, Titus was a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), where she taught American and Nevada government for 30 years.
Chris Pappas (D-New Hampshire, 1st) Born in 1980, Pappas has been serving as the U.S. Representative for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional district since 2019. He previously served on the New Hampshire Executive Council from 2013 to 2019, representing the 4th district.
When elected on November 6, 2018, he became the first openly gay person representing New Hampshire in Congress.
Pappas was born in Manchester, the son of Dawn and Arthur Pappas. His paternal great-grandfather emigrated from Greece.
Pappas graduated from Harvard College, where he wrote for the Harvard Crimson, in 2002. He has also served as a board member of Southern New Hampshire Services and the Manchester Historic Association.First elected to public office in 2002, Pappas served two terms in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
Alek Skarlatos (R- Oregon, 4th) Skarlatos, the former Oregon National Guard soldier who tackled an armed terrorist aboard a Paris-bound train in August of 2015, is now running to represent his state in the United States Congress as a Republican.
The unlikely hero, who happened to be traveling on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris, with his two childhood friends, tackled a man who came out of a train restroom with guns blazing, shooting another passenger in the neck before eventually becoming subdued by the fearless men.
Later starring as himself in a Clint Eastwood film on the incident, titled “15:17 from Paris,” the young Greek-American man, who retired from the military in 2017, received a number of other accolades from around the world, earning the US Army’s Soldier’s Medal and Oregon’s Distinguished Service Medal for his bravery. He now works in real estate.
Skarlatos, the son of 71-year-old Greek immigrant Emmanuel Skarlatos from Alexandropouli, says that he feels compelled again to do what he can to contribute to society and help his country. He is running to unseat Democrat Peter DeFazio, who has occupied the seat since 1987.
Representing Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, New York Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis is hoping to turn her swing United States Congressional district red on November 3rd this year, winning a seat from incumbent Max Rose, who took the spot in 2018.
Malliotakis received a B.A. in communications from Seton Hall University and earned an MBA from Wagner College. Asked by Greek Reporter in an exclusive interview what the most important issues are now as she sees it, Malliotakis answered “Rebuilding the economy, restoring American jobs, public safety and preserving the American dream and stopping socialism.”
State Legislative Contests
Michael Gianaris (D-New York 1st) A child of immigrant parents, Senator Gianaris was born and raised in Astoria, Queens, where he continues to reside. He graduated from Fordham University and Harvard Law School. As a first-generation American, Senator Gianaris works with community groups to reunite families separated at the border and he wrote legislation barring discrimination based on immigration status.
In a city with millions of renters, he is a strong supporter of better laws regarding their rights. Currently the Deputy Majority Leader of the New York State Senate, he is a candidate in the 2020 elections for that body.
Steven Xiarhos, (R-Massachusetts, 5th) a Republican candidate for the Massachusetts State legislature, is the grandson of Greek immigrants. A Gold Star Father as well, his son Nick, was killed at age 21 on the battlefield during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan while going to the rescue of his fellow Marines in combat.
Steve was born and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts and spent his entire 40-year career with the Yarmouth, Massachusetts Police Department. During those four decades of service, Steve was promoted to the ranks of Detective, Patrol Force Commander, Detective Division Commander, and eventually Deputy Chief of Police. He retired from the police department on December 8, 2019.
Andrew Gounardes (D-NY 22nd) This Greek-American represents his home borough of southern Brooklyn in the New York State Senate. He authored and passed legislation to guarantee line-of-duty death benefits to the families of public servants who died of coronavirus and four 9/11 Heroes Bills.
He graduated from Hunter College and George Washington University Law School.
Leonidas Raptakis (D-RI 33rd) Senator Raptakis, a Democrat, has been a member of the Rhode Island State Senate, representing District 33, since 2013.
After previously serving in the state Senate from 1997 to 2011, he served in the Rhode Island House of Representatives from 1992 to 1996.
Raptakis graduated from Rhode Island College in 1981. His professional experience includes owning and operating the Venus Pizza Restaurant.
The Greek-American has served on the Judiciary Committee as well as the committees on Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs in the Rhode Island State Senate.
James Skoufis (D-New York 39th) Skoufis has been a member of the New York State Senate, representing the 39th district as a Democrat since 2019. Up for reelection on Tuesday, he was born 1987 in Flushing, Queens. He graduated from George Washington University and Columbia University.
Skoufis began his political career on the Woodbury town board in Orange County. In 2012 he was elected to the New York State Assembly, becoming its youngest member at 25. He was re-elected in 2014 and 2016.
Before his time in the state legislature, Skoufis was a project manager at an electronic security firm and a member of the Woodbury Town Board.
Aravella Simotas (D-New York 36th) Simotas, a Democrat, is currently representing parts of western Queens, including Astoria and parts of Long Island City in the New York State Assembly. The first woman elected to office from her district, she is also up for election tomorrow. Born in 1978 in what was then Rhodesia, she has been a member of the New York State Assembly since 2011. She earned degrees from New York City’s Fordham University and Fordham University School of Law.
Michael Tannousis (R-New York 64th) Tannousis is the Republican candidate for the New York State Assembly seat now held by fellow Greek-American Nicole Malliotakis.
Endorsed by the Police Benevolent Association and the Port Authority PBA as well as the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association and the Detectives’ Union, the son of Greek-Cypriot refugees says that he will also fight for a better quality of life in Staten Island and Brooklyn.
A native Staten Islander, the candidate is the son of Greek Cypriots who immigrated to the US after being made refugees by the brutal Turkish invasion of 1974. The candidate is a graduate of SUNY Binghamton and Pace Law School.
He previously worked as an aide to then-Minority Leader James Oddo. After earning his law degree, he fulfilled his dream of becoming a prosecutor in both the Bronx and on Staten Island.
Other 2020 Contests Around the Nation
Kathleen Kromedas McGuiness
Kathleen Kromedas McGuiness (Delaware – State Auditor) was elected the Delaware State Auditor in 2018. McGuiness graduated from Cape Henlopen High School in 1985, earning her bachelor’s degree at the Florida Institute of Technology, working subsequently as a pharmacist. She later bought a pharmacy in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where she was elected a town commissioner in 2000.
When McGuiness was elected state auditor, defeating Republican James Spadola in the general election, she became the first woman elected to the position.
Judge Helen Voutsinas
Judge Helen Voutsinas (D-New York State Supreme Court)
Voutsinas has served as a judge on the Nassau County District Court in New York since 2011. She ran on the Democratic, Green, Working Families, Women’s Equality, and Reform party tickets.
The Greek-American received her undergraduate degree and J.D. from St. John’s University.
Before her election to the Court, she served as the Principal law clerk for Judge Steven M. Jaeger from 2004-2011 and prior to that, as an Assistant town attorney for the Town of North Hempstead and as Deputy majority counsel, Nassau County Legislature.