Sunday officially marked the beginning of Student Government’s 30-day campaign period. Chalked sidewalks and flyer-strewn walkways are sure to follow, but whether the negativity that marked last year’s election (with its logo controversies and accusations of misconduct) will have any true bearing on this year has yet to be seen.
“We know what we can do and what we can’t,” said Brittany Link, Brandon Faza’s vice-presidential running mate.
Trying to keep the campaign positive, Faza said Tuesday that he had planned to send out a letter to other campaigns.
“(The letter said) we are looking forward to a clean election cycle,” Faza said.
“Last year it got so crazy that if someone threw a punch at you, you were reacting,” said Link, who was the campaign manager for Faza and J.P. Murphy last year.
Early Tuesday morning, the Faza-Link ticket was already dealing with someone’s ill-nature handiwork. Several of their sidewalk chalkings were defaced or altered. Someone also chalked underneath a covered area for the Faza-Link campaign. Though the covered sidewalk chalkings were seemingly positive, Faza and Link believe someone was trying to implicate them with an election rules violation that states that no chalkings may appear on covered sidewalks.
“It doesn’t look like it will be as clear of a year as we thought,” Faza said. “We think it’s funny that people are spending time with violations when they could be talking to students.”
Link said she reported the incident to the Election Rules Commission but that she didn’t expect much to happen since they couldn’t prove anything.
Among violations they’ve already seen, Faza and Link said, are early advertising on sidewalks and student Web sites. Campaigning is allowed to begin 30 days prior to the election — half of last year’s allotted two months.
“We have a month of campaigning, we don’t have time to worry about that,” Faza said.
Last year Faza was accused of using copyrighted images for his logo. This year he said he has taken every precaution to ensure his logo is safe to use.
“We’ve had legal approval and everything,” Faza said, holding up his cell phone. The wallpaper on the screen of his phone is a green silhouette of a bull with the campaigners initials overlapping. Faza said they’ve cleared it with the ERC and the athletic department, which he said he considers important because “it does have horns.”
“I think people understand that a campaign isn’t defined by a logo,” Faza said. “I hope that the logo issue doesn’t return to haunt us.”
Incumbent student body Vice President Andrew Aubery said he wants to use the experience he gained from last year’s election in his campaign for student body president.
“A lot of elections go bad,” Aubery said. “It’s friends running against friends. Sometimes candidates want to win at any cost.”
Several tickets said they’ve noticed scrutiny coming from competing campaigns.
“I think everyone is very apprehensive,” said presidential candidate Silverlee Hernandez. She said she and her running mate, Matthew Couret, plan to use campaign techniques she’s learned as a political science major.
“I’m not necessarily looking for violations,” she said. “Really our big hurdle is keeping people pumped up for the month.”
Michael Deininger, campaign manager for the Glenn Gilzean Jr., Xavier Johnson ticket, said he’s noticed a different mood for this campaign.
“All the tickets are a little cautious,” he said. Having experience working on the Tampa-area Bush-Cheney campaign this past year, he said he wants to use a grassroots-style campaign. “(We hope to) make people aware of the issues, not why we’re better than other tickets.”
Presidential candidate Michael Johnson said any concerns lingering from last year aren’t interfering with his campaign.
“It really isn’t affecting us,” he said.
Johnson said he takes issue with some of the ERC’s rules, including the 20-member cap on campaign staff members being imposed this year.
“I think the campaign rules mock the intellect of the students,” he said. The “stringent rules” make for a watered-down campaign, he said.
“We are going to run our campaign according to plan, which includes following the rules.”
Aubery also plans to run a cautious campaign.
“We want to dot our ‘I’s and cross our ‘T’s,'” Aubery said. “If you can’t run a clean campaign, then you can’t run a clean office.”
Violations of election rules may not be the focus of anyone’s campaign, up to a point, Aubery said.
“If something happens where it is outright cheating, I’ll report it,” he said.
Campaigning techniques from candidates have yet to unfold, but Faza and Link promise another rap song similar to last year’s “What’s the Vote Gonna Be?” performed by the group Classified.
Campaign funding is capped at approximately $1,700. So far, Faza and Link said they have raised about $1,200 from donations and local sponsors including Margarita Mama’s and Fast Signs.
Aubery wouldn’t disclose how much his campaign had raised thus far, only that he is funding it out of his own pocket.
“I don’t believe in corporate sponsors,” Aubery said. “Everything is being split with me and my running mate.”
He agrees with newly passed election rules. The school has a lot of visitors around this time of year, so it’s best not to let the school become littered with flyers and signs, Aubery said.
He also said the shorter campaign time is reasonable, but can be limiting.
“You have to do a lot more and a lot quicker in a shorter amount of time,” Aubery said.