New slates to compete in A.S. election

    Though they dominated the A.S. candidate pool in recent years, neither the Students First! nor Unity slates have filed to compete in this year’s campuswide elections, according to preliminary candidate information released by A.S. executive assistant Azizi Stephens.

    Overall, 25 candidates filed paperwork by the Feb. 28 deadline to compete for a campuswide executive office, falling from 27 last year. Only three of the candidates are running independent campaigns, with the rest split between three new slates.

    Due to varying filing deadlines, a final list of senatorial candidates has not yet been released.

    “I think this should be a really solid election,” A.S. Elections Manager Steve York said, pointing out that candidates in most cabinet slots will run in competitive races.

    Four candidates will square off for the top spot of president. A.S. Vice President of Finance Kevin Hanson, who ran victoriously with Students First! last year, will head the new Revolution! ticket, the largest of the slates.

    Hanson will face off against another former Students First! victor, Commissioner of Diversity Affairs Christopher Sweeten, who is running on the Student Empowerment slate. Both will compete against Earl Warren College senior and former Guardian staff member Daniel Watts, running on the Sungod Party slate, and independent candidate Keshav “Kiki” Boddula, a John Muir College junior.

    Only two candidates — both on the Revolution! slate — will run unopposed for the positions of vice president of academic affairs and commissioner of athletics.

    Despite a “great experience” running with Students First! last year, Hanson said he decided to form his own coalition largely because of the role student cultural organizations played in choosing the slate’s candidates last year. As the majority of the Students First! constituency, members of the Student Affirmative Action Committee generally send politically inexperienced representatives to the steering body to choose the slate’s members, Hanson said.

    “I could sense sort of with last year’s elections that things were glued together enough to win, but that glue was falling apart,” Hanson said. “I ran on Students First! last year, but I didn’t feel like I was included.”

    As the former head of the campus Interfraternity Council, Hanson has included in his coalition several candidates active in the Greek community, another traditional Students First! supporter.

    “I know it looks like a Greek slate at the top, and I know it’s going to be stereotyped as such, but it’s a lot deeper than that,” he said.

    Sweeten said that his slate, too, has abandoned the classic Students First! model and is dealing exclusively with cultural organizations.

    “The sides have kind of splintered off into two slates,” said Eleanor Roosevelt College senior Harish Nandagopal, last year’s Students First! presidential candidate. “It’s just the evolution — the cycle of things. I have no doubt that Students First! will be running again.”

    Though Students First! swept almost all top offices last year — and has generally enjoyed success at the polls since the mid-1990s — Nandagopal was defeated by independent candidate Jenn Pae.

    “We don’t have a leader or a figurehead in office,” Nandagopal said. “There is no one to keep things together.”

    Muir senior Jeremy Cogan, who headed the Unity ticket last year, said he had met with Nandagopal this year to discuss combining the two slates, which originated from a single left-of-center constituency. In the end, both decided to “let nature take its course,” Cogan said, allowing up-and-coming candidates to resurrect the groups they thought most appropriate.

    Watts said his slate will campaign on a plan to create a second Sun God Festival, to be paid for by eliminating all stipends of elected and appointed A.S. officers and staff members. The slate will also release its budget proposal for review by all students, Watts said.

    “I think we share the same goals as Student Empowerment,” he said. “We just have different ideas of what students want.”

    Boddula said his independent run is just getting off the ground, and he thinks parking will be a main issue in the minds of voters.

    Though the elections manager is usually a behind-the-scene presence, York, too, has claimed a piece of the spotlight by garnering national attention for his broadcast of amateur pornography on Student-Run Television.

    However, York said the controversy about the incident would not affect his ability to effectively preside over the election.

    Himself a previous candidate for office, York lost in each of the past two years, walking away with 12 percent of the vote in his independent presidential bid last year. The experience, he said, has helped prepare him for his current task.

    “Basically, the elections committee will not have the wool pulled over its eyes,” he said.

    Two years ago, York also filed the election-day grievance that led to the slate-wide disqualification of Students First! candidates, an incident that caused lasting bad blood between York and the slate.

    “If any of my friends get unjustly disqualified this year, I’m definitely getting in contact with a lawyer and urging them to take this to court,” Nandagopal said, although he said that York has, so far, performed well. “I think a better choice could have been made. But right now, Steve is the elections manager, and I’ll support him.”

    York said he’ll gladly address individual concerns about his performance, but that he shares a vision for well-run elections.

    “I only want fair elections for the campus,” he said. “We may not have that in Washington, but we can certainly have that at UCSD.”

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