‘OK’ candidate Derek Topper runs against current ASUC Senator Hung Huynh for executive vice president

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In less than a week’s time, two candidates — one aligned with Student Action and one independent — will go head-to-head in their bid for the second-highest position in the ASUC: executive vice president, or EVP.

The candidates include sophomore and current Student Action senator Hung Huynh and campus junior Derek Topper, who unsuccessfully ran for ASUC Senate last year.

Topper, a former distribution analyst for The Daily Californian, is also running for external affairs vice president, or EAVP, against CalSERVE-endorsed candidate Nuha Khalfay. According to Topper, his main incentive for running for both EVP and EAVP was to oppose the two largest ASUC political parties — CalSERVE and Student Action.

“I’m not running because I have some internal revenge,” Topper said. “I’m running because they were unopposed. It’s stupid that we can have this huge school and we have this dominant two-party system.”

While Topper does not have pre-established campaign platforms, he said he hopes to address issues of affordable housing, campus safety and undergraduate representation in the Academic Senate.

“At the end of the day, my platforms will be dictated by what the students want,” Topper said.

Huynh said he aims to build upon his current work as a senator, which includes basic needs security and financial aid support. His platforms include improving funding and space allocation for student organizations, building partnerships with local businesses and increasing accountability in the ASUC.

“I chose to run for EVP not because I want to fit the mold of it but because it caters towards a lot of the work I’m already doing and the things I want to institutionalize at the ASUC,” Huynh said.

The EVP is primarily responsible for managing more than 1,000 active student organizations on campus, according to current EVP Helen Yuan, who ran with Student Action last year.

“Being able to look at the big picture is important because you’re in charge of the 1,000-plus student organizations on this campus and their funding concerns,” Yuan said.

Yuan said Huynh is well-qualified for the EVP position based on his work this year as a senator, including the ongoing development of a food voucher program for low-income students on campus. Yuan also expressed her confidence in Huynh’s candidacy for executive office.

“By last summer he had already achieved almost two out of this three platforms. Based on his track record, I know he would get things done in the EVP office,” Yuan said. “Hung will likely win.”

Topper was less certain about his ability to clinch the EVP seat. Unlike many other candidates, he has never attended an ASUC Senate meeting or worked on an election campaign.

But Topper said he has the leadership skills necessary to succeed in the executive office. He added that disorganization within the political parties themselves could work to his advantage.

“I don’t feel confident, but if I win it will be because one of the other two parties couldn’t get their ducks in a row,” Topper said. “I’ve got some OK qualifications. I’ve got some OK ideas. It’s the other candidates’ race to lose.”

After voter turnout rates hit a five-year historic low last year, Student Action as a whole has pursued a much more aggressive campaign strategy by increasing its presence on Sproul Plaza and promoting face-to-face interaction between candidates and students.

“The biggest flaw last year was not enough personal outreach and talking to people one-on-one,” Huynh said. “I strongly believe the follow-through would help voting increase.”

Yuan urged students to show up and vote. She also encouraged students to cast their ballots based on the candidates’ platforms, as opposed to their personal relationships with candidates.

“Do your research on the candidates. Vote for people you know are qualified,” Yuan said. “Don’t treat it as a popularity contest because that’s not the point.”

Contact Miyako Iwata at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dailycalmiyako.