An Election Between Friends?

    Believe it or not, A.S. presidential candidates Daniel Watts and Harry Khanna have been long-time friends. But the mudslinging and personal attacks during this year’s campaign is testing their relationship.

    Initially, their friendship brought Watts and Khanna to an understanding: The bureaucracy of elections destroys democracy. In years past, slates would use minor A.S. election bylaw infractions to disqualify candidates, a practice that both candidates wanted to avoid, Khanna said. Their solution was an informal agreement, between friends, to not file formal grievances during the elections.

    Since then, both have regretted their accord.

    While not a single formal charge has been submitted against any candidate, neither slate has curbed its public condemnations of each other.

    In an April 3 Guardian article, Khanna vaugely referenced bylaw violations. He has since specified, and said that Watts’ slate violated elections bylaws by campaigning early. Khanna denounced vice president of finance candidate April Deibert for allegedly promoting her candidacy in an e-mail to the Vietnamese Student Association on March 2, a month before official campaigning was allowed to begin.

    Deibert denies violating any bylaw. She said that the e-mail merely shared her frustrations that the Student Organization Funding Advisory Board had grossly underfunded an event for her organization, just as it had for a VSA event.

    “It was a private e-mail from one org head to another, not public campaigning,” Deibert said.

    Watts similarly alleged that Khanna’s slate hung its campaign posters before campaigning was allowed. Khanna shrugged off the issue.

    “If he’s right, then we campaigned early and he campaigned early,” Khanna said. “It’s not really relevant anymore.”

    Watts’ April 2 publication More Truth About UCSD alleged that SV! used UCSD Technical Services equipment for campaigning without getting its fair market value assessed by A.S. Elections Manager Charlene Cheng. The rules regarding voluntary spending limits, which SV! has accepted, require such an assessment.

    In a judicial board ruling last year, Eleanor Roosevelt College’s entire Dynamite slate was disqualified from the election for violating a similar ERC spending bylaw. The precedent notwithstanding, Watts has refused to make an official complaint.

    “This is a disqualifiable offense,” Watts stated in an e-mail. “I’m not filing charges because of my standing agreement with Harry, but this would definitely take down the slate if it were filed.”

    Khanna rejected the allegation, saying that SV! did not violate any bylaws, and that he correctly estimated the rental value of the karaoke equipment, which he used for campaigning purposes. John Muir College Elections Manager Pat Allen said he supports the candidates’ agreement for fostering more student cooperation.

    “It’s too early to tell whether this election is more bitter or less bitter than the others, but judging by how we’ve had no grievances as of yet, I’m optimistic of the coming week,” Allen said.

    The personal dynamic of this year’s election has added a layer of complexity to the presidential race unseen in recent years. With the most powerful political position at UCSD on the line, however, Khanna and Watts have chosen to use informal political tactics, including public condemnations and attacks. In More Truth About UCSD, Watts published a half-page photo of Khanna and a friend with alcohol in his A.S. office. While the bottles were closed, the presence of alcohol in the office is prohibited.

    Again, Watts said he refuses to file a formal complaint, but added that the issue should be brought to light.

    “A.S. will not fund student-run events with alcohol, but they will apparently buy alcohol paraphernalia for themselves with YOUR fees,” Watts wrote in the issue, referring to alleged misuse of A.S. funds by Student Voice! supporter and former Vice President External Kevin Mann.

    According to receipts Watts acquired through the California Public Records Act, Mann spent more than $30 for purchases that included a “tapered shot glass” bought during a lobbying trip.

    It still has not been confirmed that the money was refunded by the A.S. Council, Khanna said, because Watts has not filed a formal complaint that would prompt deeper investigations. According to Watts, A.S. President Christopher Sweeten said privately that he asked Mann to resign because he had repeatedly misused funds. Sweeten did not return a call for comment.

    Watts’ accusations are indicative of his “smear campaign,” according to Khanna.

    “Watts has nothing to say for himself,” he said.

    Every allegation is meant to show the lack of integrity Khanna and his slate have shown in the elections, according to Watts.

    “I’m about reform,” Watts said. “I’m trying to show what is wrong with the current system, which Harry is in.”

    However, Watts and Khanna can agree on at least one thing:

    “He’s abusing our agreement,” each said of the other.

    Readers can contact David Johnston at [email protected].

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