Tayfun Selen likes talking about coming to America from Turkey, getting a job pumping gas, going to college and now – running for Congress. He talked about being the only Turkish-born mayor in the United States when he held office in Chatham Township.
Now the history of his native land is being drawn into the CD-11 GOP primary in probably the most emotional way possible
Paul DeGroot, one of his opponents, has sent out two fliers that say Selen’s campaign is partly funded by groups that deny the Armenian Genocide. A recent mailer from DeGroot references a PAC associated with the Turkish Coalition of America, which donated $2,500 to Selen’s campaign last September.
At issue is the deportation and killing of Armenians living in what was then the Ottoman Empire during World War I. President Joe Biden officially recognized the genocide as such last year.
Nonetheless, on its website, the Turkish Coalition of America says the following:
“The Armenian Diaspora claim of genocide is a one-sided assessment of the inter-communal war between Ottoman Armenians and Ottoman Muslims in 1915, and it prejudices Turkish and Armenian rapprochement.”
Getting back to CD-11, Selen called DeGroot’s mailers a “distraction” from the issues important to the residents of the 11th District, which includes parts of Morris, Passaic and Essex counties.
He said he doesn’t want to focus on the past, adding, “I am focused on the future of America.”
As for the troubled relationship between Turkey and the Armenian people, Selen said things are different in the United States.
He spoke of having friends and supporters who are Armenians.
“We’re all Americans in America,” he said.
Selen, who now serves as director of the Morris County Board of Commissioners, would appear to be the favorite to win the primary and take on Democrat Mikie Sherrill. He has the endorsement of both the Morris and Essex county Republican organizations. DeGroot has the Passaic endorsement.
Another candidate, Toby Anderson, is campaigning throughout the districts. Anderson, who just missed making the runoff for the Morris nod, is visiting diners to meet voters.
DeGroot said today that the issue is not only the deportation and killing of Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire, but the Turkish government.
He noted that Turkey has had strong ties with Russia and Syria; interests often adverse to those of the United States. DeGroot added that Turkey has misgivings about admitting Sweden and Finland into NATO. The U.S supports their entry.
DeGroot’s larger point here is that any entanglement with a foreign country is not good for a would-be member of Congress to have.
Selen insists that the charge is without merit, adding that this is the type of stuff that inevitably helps Democrats.
Just for good measure – if that’s the right term – DeGroot’s mailer portrays Selen as some sort of 1950’s-era hoodlum – complete with fedora and pin-striped suit.