Candidates get ready for A.S. elections

    Candidates for A.S. Council positions and elections staff expressed optimism as they opened the campaign season with no disqualifications caused by late filings, after the noon deadline on March 1. Last year, several overdue entries, deemed ineligible, started off a tumultuous election that ended with the disqualification of the entire Students First! slate.

    All candidates submitted their packets at least 20 minutes before the first deadline and attended the mandatory candidates’ meeting later that afternoon, either in person or by proxy, according to A.S. Elections Manager Tom Chapman and A.S. executive assistant Kyle Nakanishi.

    A total of 27 candidates entered into the races for president, vice president and commissioner positions, seven more than in 2003. Senatorial and college council candidates will not be finalized until March 5, due to individual colleges extending their candidacy deadlines.

    All but one position have at least two people competing. Last year, eight candidates in the vice presidential and commissioner races ran unopposed.

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    Five candidates filed to run for A.S. president: Jeremy Cogan, Harish Nandagopal, Jenn Pae, Kris Saradpon and Steve York. Melinda Gibson and Cat Yapyuco will compete for vice president internal and Kevin Hanson faces off against Denis Shmidt for vice president of finance.

    Only Rigo Marquez runs unopposed for vice president external while Jared Feldman and Caroline Song will vie for vice president of academic affairs.

    The candidates signed on to only two slates, Unity and Students First!, compared to four last year. Unity claims seven candidates, including Cogan for president, while Students First! claims eleven, with Nandagopal for president. There are also eight candidates running as independents.

    Several candidates ran in last year’s election. Marquez, who was disqualified along with the entire Students First! slate, ran as vice president external. Rishi Shah, who was also disqualified with Students First!, is running for the second time as commissioner of programming. Brian Uiga, who contended for president last year, is running for commissioner of communications. York, Uiga’s former slatemate, also ran as vice president internal last year. York was responsible for filing the original grievance in the 2003 election that led to the disqualification of the Students First! slate.

    One candidate, current A.S. Commissioner of Student Services Kelly Vasant, is running for re-election.

    Chapman credited the on-time applications to new efforts by the A.S. elections committee, which oversees the process and hears grievances, to alert candidates of potential problems before they occur.

    “We’re stating [the rules] explicitly this year because it’s been a problem in previous years,” Chapman said. “This year, we decided to make them clear prior to any violations.”

    Nandagopal, who was disqualified last year in his race for vice president internal along with the Students First! slate, blamed “non-candidates” and “third-parties” for the problems, and said he expected a cleaner race.

    To prevent flyer-posting violations, responsible for bringing down the Students First! slate last year, Nandagopal has proposed a voluntary agreement among candidates not to “poster-save,” a practice by which campaigns ask campus organizations to post their own signs to reserve spots until the campaign period officially begins in spring quarter.

    The election committee said in its “Frequently Asked Questions,” which was distributed at the meeting and is also available online, that it would consider this practice a violation of bylaws.

    In addition, Nandagopal has reregistered the Students First! student organization, which was created last year and was not related to the slate, after the organization endorsed a non-Students-First!-slate presidential candidate last year, who had a first and last name identical to Students First! slate candidate Kevin Shawn Hsu.

    He said he wanted to preempt potential attempts by outside groups from thwarting the slate’s campaign.

    York said he is looking forward to the campaigning period.

    “It should be a really good campaign this year, and I hope to really debate the issues because the presidential candidates come from a lot of different backgrounds and bring a lot of different experiences to the table,” said York, who is running as as an independent.

    He said he expected candidates to run a clean campaign this year.

    “I think candidates running this year on large slates know that there will be candidates running who have balls and know that they’re not afraid to call bullshit when they see it,” York said.

    However, Nandagopal said his campaign has already received attacks, with someone attempting to submit a candidate statement bearing his name. He said the forged statement contained “extreme” views intended to alienate potential voters.

    Election officials caught the problem when they noticed two statements filed with Nandagopal’s name submitted via Internet, Nakanishi said.

    However, Chapman said he remained optimistic about the campaign and is expecting a 25-percent turnout, an increase from last year. He credited projected rise to more competitive races, with fewer candidates running unopposed.

    “I’m really excited about the amount of people getting involved this year,” said Cogan.

    Cogan also said he expected a shortened voting period caused by a new runoff voting process to affect voter participation.

    “I hope students get informed and turn out to vote,” said Pae, the current A.S. vice president internal and independent presidential candidate.

    Saradpon, a John Muir College junior who is running for president as an independent candidate, also stressed the importance of student interest in the election.

    “If the presidential candidates and all of the other candidates are into it, I think the student body will be into it as well,” said Saradpon, who does not currently hold an elected office.

    Students will vote April 5 through April 7 on StudentLink. If a candidate receives less than 50 percent of the vote, runoff voting will take place in the following two days.

    [Editor’s note: Brian Uiga is a staff writer at the Guardian.]

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