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SG presidential candidate withdraws day before first debate

After Yusuf Fattah withdrew from the race for systemwide
president, former vice presidential candidate Claire Mitchell (left) will now run for president with her new running mate Gustavo Spangher (right). SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

With less than 30 hours until the first Student Government (SG) presidential debate, presidential candidate Yusuf Fattah decided to drop out of the race, having his former vice presidential candidate Claire Mitchell run in his place.

This decision may come as a shock to some and was definitely a shock to the ticket involved.

“With a heavy heart we came to the decision together that it would benefit the student body most if we were to restructure our campaign with me stepping into the president role,” Mitchell said in an email to The Oracle. 

Fattah announced Sunday afternoon on his platform’s Instagram — @goforgold.usf — that he would be stepping down due to “personal issues.”

“Over the past week, there was so much going on not only in my work life but in my personal life,” Fattah said. “I knew that if I truly cared about the student body, I was not going to be able to give this position all that it deserved as much as Claire could.”

Fattah said his decision to step down was made 12 hours before his announcement.

“We wanted to announce it as soon as possible because the people who were going to be on the debate stage are the people who are going to be on the ballot,” Fattah said.

The presidential and vice presidential debate will be held today at 7 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center Oval Theater.

SG statutes state that “candidates may withdraw from an election at any time by submitting a [w]ithdrawal form and the remaining candidate shall select and report the replacement to the Election Rules Commission within two business days.”

Mitchell said she was fully aware of this situation  happening.

“One of the roles of the vice president is to step into the office of president if the president cannot fulfill their duties,” Mitchell said. “This is a condition I accepted when first deciding to run during this campaign.”

Her new running mate will be second-year accounting major Gustavo Spangher.

With only a couple of hours to make a decision, Spangher said he was initially hesitant to take on the role, especially because the campaign has been active since Feb. 17. 

Fattah and Mitchell built the platform “Go for G.O.L.D.” which stands for growth, opportunity, loyalty and development. Some of their initiatives include eliminating the +/- sign on a student’s transcript, creating a Greek Week and extending the hours of the USF Counseling Center.

However, Spangher said he and Mitchell were able to get together and add initiatives to the platform that he was passionate about.

For example, because Spangher is from Brazil, he added an initiative to create a career fair specifically for international students to find jobs in the local community.

“We were able to incorporate some things that I believe should be advocated for,” Spangher said. “People will see in the debate that I will be talking about issues involving international students and concerns I have seen as a Resident Assistant (RA).

“Of course, I respect [Fattah] and I know [Mitchell] and [they] spent a lot of time putting the campaign together but this platform will be built on my ideas as well.”

Spangher said he believes Mitchell picked him as a running mate because of his leadership on campus.

Spangher said he was an Orientation Leader last summer and the former director of fundraising for the Brazilian Student Association. He is currently the president of the International Student Association, an RA and a member of the fraternity Beta Theta Pi.

However, an organization Spangher does not have experience with is SG.

But, he doesn’t think that will be a problem for their candidacy.

“Claire has the experience in SG but I will personally bring the outside perspective as a regular student instead of having preconceived notions of how SG is run,” Spangher said.

Fattah said he only applied to run for student body president, so by withdrawing his candidacy he won’t be on the ballot for another position. However, he said he would explore the possibilities of getting involved in SG in other ways down the line.

In the case that a candidate withdraws from an election, the SG statutes state that “the candidate may not reapply for any position in that given election after the close of applications.”

“This was not something that was taken lightly and it’s still a decision that I am struggling with,” Fattah said. “I apologize to anyone who is disappointed but I want the student body to know that this decision was made with their best interest in mind.

“I would rather sacrifice my personal dreams that have been two years in the making to ensure that the university has the best representation.”