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April 8th marks a phenomenal opportunity for Iranian Americans to affect policy through the ballot-box. In light of the recent passing of Tom Lantos (D-CA), the 12th Congressional District in Northern California will hold a special election to determine his replacement. Special elections are held when a Congressional seat is vacated in the middle of a term.  A few recent examples indicate that Iranian Americans can heavily influence the outcome of the CA-12 Special election.

Yesterday, IN-7 held a special election in a heavily Democratic district where only 9,000 votes separated the winner, Andre Carson, from the loser.  By the end of the year, 2007 and 2008 will have combined for a total of at least seven special elections (IL-14, IN-7, CA-12, LA-01, LA-06, MS-01, OH-3) so far.

Perhaps the most significant of these recent special elections was the Illinois open-seat election on March 9, where a spread of only 5,022 votes divided the victorious underdog Bill Foster (D) from the expected winner Jim Oberweis (R) in this consistently Republican district. This is a seat that, until his resignation earlier this year, was held by former GOP Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.
This surprising election result exemplified the importance of each and every vote and the impact constituents can have in Congressional Special Elections. Due to the low voter turnouts in these elections, the Iranian American community has a unique opportunity to have a disproportionately large impact on their outcome.

California’s 12th Congressional district in Western San Fransisco, home to thousands of Iranian-Americans, includes San Mateo, San Bruno, Dale City, and Pacifica.  The Special Election on April 8th will feature all candidates from all parties, and if none reach the 50%+1 threshold, the top-two vote getters will appear on the June 3rd ballot.  It is important to note that the winner in this upcoming race will serve out the remaining 9 months in Lantos’ term and new primaries for the Nov. 4th General Election will still be held on June 3rd.
Thus far, two Democrats, Jason Lee Jones and Jackie Speier, and one Republican, Mike Moloney, as well as a few third party candidates have filed to run for this heavily Democratic seat.  Currently, Speier is expected to win this seat comfortably, but the next four weeks provide Iranian Americans in this district to introduce themselves to her and build a relationship, or to support one of her opponents and help get-out-the-vote for their candidate of choice. 
The important point is that in this district where so many Iranian Americans reside, our community can have a significant impact and should not pass up this opportunity.

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