‘Strength in numbers’: How community endorsements shape ASUC elections

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Daniela Cervantes/Staff

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While UC Berkeley students breathe a collective sigh of relief that the 2018 ASUC elections are over, next year’s senators-elect are reflecting on the campus communities that voted them into office.

On a campus of about 40,000 students, each community seeks to secure a seat at the table — both literally and figuratively — in the 20-person policymaking body known as the ASUC Senate.

Some candidates, including independent senator-elect Nick Araujo, said engagement with student organizations was critical to the success of their campaigns. Araujo was one of two Latinx community-endorsed candidates who ran for senate this year, along with sophomore Idalys Pérez, who ran with CalSERVE. Both Araujo and Pérez won seats in the 2018-19 cohort.

Araujo said he drew most of his support from Latinx student groups on campus, such as the Latinx Pre-Law Society and the Latino Business Student Association.

“Latinx community-serving student organizations really were the heart of my campaign,” Araujo said. “I know where my community is, I know where it’s always been, and I made myself available in those spaces.”

One of the most decisive victories of the senate race was clinched by Christian community-endorsed Isabella Chow, who finished with the second-highest number of votes among a pool of 37 senatorial candidates. She was one of 11 Student Action candidates who were elected to the senate Friday.

Reflecting on Student Action’s overall strategy, Chow attributed part of the party’s success to its effort to incorporate a “diverse” coalition of communities and needs this election season, including support for international students and sexual violence prevention, among others.

“We don’t just cater to one viewpoint or one overall theme, but we bring together a diverse array of needs and communities,” Chow said. “By putting these communities together, it gives a bigger picture of what the campus really is.”

Chow’s own campaign was centered around an effort to elevate the Christian community’s presence on campus. She will be third in a line of Christian community-backed ASUC senators who ran with Student Action in the last three election cycles, stretching back to the tenures of former senator Wesley Wan in 2016, then senator Jenica Bautista in 2017.

But senator-elect Teddy Lake, the queer and trans community-endorsed candidate who ran with CalSERVE, found that taking a personal campaign approach proved the most successful. Lake was one of three CalSERVE candidates who secured a seat in the ASUC Senate.

“The way I approached this campaign wasn’t an organizational approach,” Lake said. “To me, endorsements are really secondary, and what really matters are the votes.”

As a part of her holistic campaign strategy, Lake reached out to queer members of the Greek community to garner support outside of other queer-affiliated campus groups, such as Beyond the Binary and Queer Student Union.

Another community-endorsed candidate who scored a victory in this year’s election was Aaron Bryce Lee, an independent candidate who ran with the endorsement of the Korean American Student Association, or KASA. KASA co-president Timothy Kim said the organization makes a targeted effort to mobilize the Korean-American community behind its endorsed candidates.

“Political apathy is a constant challenge that we face, especially given the extremely busy schedules of students here,” Kim said in an email. “We typically send out an email to our listserv detailing which candidate we support and why. We also take advantage of our internal ‘family’ online groups, and post a similar message there.”

Despite KASA’s best efforts to engage its community in ASUC elections, however, Kim said the group’s efforts often do not automatically translate into concrete votes.

“Unfortunately, I would estimate that of the around two hundred members we reach out to, only a small portion find the opportunity to actually submit a ballot,” Kim said in the email.

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