Presidential candidates for this spring’s election agree on one thing: Student Government (SG) needs reform.
The first of three presidential debates, sponsored by the Student Alliance for a Politically Active Campus, is Friday in the Marshall Student Center Room 2709 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Campaigning started Monday for the five presidential and five vice presidential candidates.
One thing about the current executive branch that presidential candidate Christopher Leddy isn’t happy with is the allocation of the student-paid Activity and Service Fees.
Leddy, who is running for the second year in a row, said he wants to re-evaluate the 14 executive positions that were created last semester by SG President Juan Soltero.
“We’ve seen how SG works, and what we really want to do is take it to the next level,” said Leddy, a senior majoring in political science and history who lost in a runoff to Soltero last year.
“We want to continue some of their initiatives, but at the same time re-evaluate and cut back a lot.”
Leddy’s running mate Scott Howard, a junior majoring in physics and philosophy, said SG’s funding allocations prove the current administration is “corrupted.”
“Last year’s executive branch came in and raised the executive branch budget by 22 percent,” Howard said. “That 22 percent is sort of a concealment because what they cut was the project budget and they increased their payroll by 67 percent.”
Presidential candidate Daniel Dunn, a senior majoring in philosophy, said accountability is lacking in SG – something he will ensure if elected.
Dunn said he’ll promise to address the student body in a public forum fortnightly.
“We’re mad as hell,” said Dunn’s running mate Daiquiri Jones, a senior double majoring in cultural anthropology and women’s studies. “We want to create a change. We feel that many of the other candidates in the past have really failed to deliver the kind of change that we want.”
Vice presidential candidate Jonathan Davila, a senior majoring in biology, said new leaders are what SG needs.
Davila and his running mate Tim Moore, a junior majoring in business management, said they want to increase student participation on campus.
Moore said there’s interaction on campus, but it doesn’t feel like a community.
“We’re a fresh face,” Davila said. “It seems like there’s been a same trend but we kind of want to change that. We want to unite the colleges. We want to unite the University.”
But Andrew Cohen, SG director of University and Community Affairs and now presidential candidate, said candidates’ past experience is most important.
Cohen is one of three SG members on the ballot. He is running alongside SG Senate President Pro Tempore Matthew Diaz.
“We have connections with university officials. If you don’t have the money to pay for something, it takes friends out there to get things done,” Cohen said. “I’m not advocating against someone who’s not in SG and is running. I’m saying that it will be very difficult to create a relationship in the first half of your term and trying to get to know who to ask the questions to. Matt and I already know who to go to.”
Diaz said the executive branch is too big, with many unnecessary positions they would like to cut if elected.
SG Associate Director of Student Life and Traditions Spencer Montgomery, who is running for vice president, said the current SG is “ineffective.”
Montgomery is running alongside presidential candidate Cesar Hernandez, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences.
“God bless all my opponents. However, I feel that I bring something different,” Hernandez said. “(Opponents) are in the two opposite extremes. One is SG and one is a ‘hate SG.’ I love SG and I love the students.”
Michael LeBlanc, supervisor of the Election Rules Commission, declined release of the questions candidates will be asked at the debate.
“We want candidates to think on their toes … Hopefully, students will be able to get a good idea for how each candidate would run the executive branch,” LeBlanc said.
According to the debate’s Facebook page, 260 people plan to attend, he said.
LeBlanc said he hopes the first debate will draw a larger crowd than last year’s, which had about a dozen people.
“We want 10,000 votes,” he said. “We had 3,000 last year, and that’s sad.”
SG senate seats are also up for grabs. There are 52 candidates, and campaigning starts this week. Both presidential and senatorial elections will be held Feb. 22-25.