Presidential debate generates energized discussion among Metro Detroit’s Chaldean community

By Eric Lacy |
SOUTHFIELD, MI – About 25 members of Metro Detroit’s Chaldean community made it clear Tuesday night that they’re fully engaged in the ongoing presidential campaign and believe several issues in the debate hit close to their hearts.

Whether it’s the U.S.’s trade relations with China, the deadly terror attack in Libya of four Americans, unrest in Syria, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, or issues that hit more at home like jobs, immigration or the economy, this group paid plenty of attention to what President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney had to say in their second showdown.

This event, sponsored by The Chaldean News and WDET Radio, was held at Southfield’s Regency Manor and drew a lively mix of Republicans, Democrats, Independents and undecideds from all ages.

Jumhoria Kaskorkis, whose family originally came from Iraq, now lives in Farmington Hills and supports Obama. While watching the debate, she admitted issues like the candidates’ tax policies were difficult to understand.

Kaskoris also expressed concern for issues that hit extremely close to home, like the idea of a Canadian oil pipeline.

“I’d support it as long as it would be safe and not hurt the environment,” she said.

Kaskoris’ close analysis of the debate seemed to be the same approach others at the event took, knowing our country’s challenges here and abroad aren’t necessarily clearly defined or easy to fix.

Veronica Denha, 39, is also an Iraqi Chaldean from Farmington Hills who made sure to pay attention to what promises Obama and Romney delivered.

Denha voted for John McCain in 2008 and describes herself as a Romney supporter because she likes his experience in government and business, the loyalty to his Mormon faith and his appearance as a warm and honest man.

“I don’t think Romney’s character would lead to any kind of attack on women’s issues,” she said. “I think these misconceptions about him are just fabricated by the left.”

Denha also supports Romney’s commitment to not cut defense spending because she believes those who fight overseas deserve everything they need to succeed.

She called Tuesday’s debate a draw after she claimed Romney “tackled” Obama in the first debate.

“Romney was on his game (in the first debate), and Obama was so not on his game then,” Denha said. “But on (Tuesday) I think they both held their own.”

Salam Elia, 24, of Southfield, voted for Obama in 2008 and plans to do it again because she’s encouraged by the recent progress his administration has made with the economy, his stance on social issues like a woman’s right to choose and his diplomatic stance on issues in the Middle East.

Elia finished law school at Michigan State in May, is waiting any day now to get the results from her bar exam, and believes Obama’s approach to the economy can help her stay in Metro Detroit and get a job at a law office.

“If you feel staying home is worth it, stay home and try to fix it – or you can run away from it or invest your time somewhere else,” Elia said of her future plans. “As a woman, finding a job is an issue that’s very important to me.”

Elia said this election is a tough one for young Chaldeans to get behind because she claims most people of her background, especially older ones, side with the Republican party based on their Catholic faith and conservative social stance.

Since there are so many issues at play in this election, Elia find herself taking a deeper look at every important political matter the candidates discuss, and finds it difficult to side with Romney based solely on any conservative beliefs.

“As a young lawyer trying to make it in a predominately male industry I have a different kind of perspective,” said Elia, who believed Obama won Tuesday’s debate and praised him for his stance on women’s issues.

Elia admits there isn’t as much Obama enthusiasm among young people in 2008, but is hopeful her peers will step up Nov. 6 and let their voice be heard again.

And she believes most will likely vote for Obama again, especially after his more aggressive approach against Romney in Tuesday’s debate.

“Obama needed to step up, and I feel like he brought it,” she said.