Change was the buzzword in this year’s ASUC election. Not only did CalSERVE successfully elect its first presidential candidate in four years, but traditionally satirical party SQUELCH! claimed its stake in the campus political scene as a viable third-party contender.
CalSERVE won a majority of the executive slate positions, ending Student Action’s dominant streak of the last few years. Student Action also lost its 11-seat majority within the senate, relinquishing one seat to CalSERVE and the other to SQUELCH!. Notably, the Cooperative Movement party lost its single senatorial seat for the first time in four years.
“I thought that in this election year, more than others, there was the most number of curveballs,” said SQUELCH! party chair and former columnist for The Daily Californian Noah Ickowitz. “It’s the craziest election in the last four years.”
The emergence of SQUELCH! as a serious party is perhaps the largest “curveball” of this election season; its decision to run a nonsatirical slate made it a “driving force” in the campus political arena, according to CalSERVE Communications Coordinator Matthew Enger.
Student Action Party Signatory Joey Lam also emphasized SQUELCH!’s new presence and effect on the election.
“It’s definitely disappointing that we couldn’t repeat the success that we’ve had in previous years,” Lam said. “SQUELCH! having such a strong presence and serious slate definitely had an impact on us this year.”
According to Lam, some of SQUELCH!’s candidates and some from Student Action had mutual friends, which might have split votes during the election.
“I would say that Student Action wasn’t used to be challenged, especially from two strong parties,” Enger said. ”SQUELCH! running a serious slate could seriously encroach on the communities that Student Action usually represents.” He noted that presidential candidates Jason Bellet of SQUELCH! and Rafi Lurie of Student Action were drawing on many of the same communities.
SQUELCH!’s success this year — electing two of its seven senatorial candidates and having its presidential candidate come in second — may not be short-lived, either. Ickowitz said that SQUELCH! intends to continue running as a serious third party, pointing to Bellet’s success as indicative of its ability to elect a candidate to an executive seat.
Parties also had to deal with new spending caps, which meant in some cases redesigning their campaigns. CalSERVE redesigned its spending budget to reduce costs and maximize visibility, Enger said, declining to give specifics on the exact changes.
CalSERVE Elections Coordinator Anais LaVoie attributed CalSERVE’s success to the broadening of its coalition by slating a larger number of candidates from a variety of communities. Along with apportioning funds to amplify its online presence, CalSERVE began running workshops to train candidates in campaigning, recruiting volunteers and maximizing social-media presence, Enger said.
In comparison, Lam said that Student Action’s campaign did not differ dramatically from that of last year. Similar to CalSERVE, Student Action ran a retreat for its candidates to train them as potential senators. Lam said that Student Action aimed to spend its budget as transparently as possible, noting no specific changes from previous years.
LaVoie, however, said she felt that Student Action’s slate was not as strong as in past years.
“When it came down to it, they were complacent, having swept two years in a row,” LaVoie said. “I don’t think they were very ambitious about picking their candidates.”
While Student Action did run a smaller senatorial slate than it did last year, Lam said he believed this year’s slate was just as qualified as any other.
“We slated every single one of our candidates because we always have great belief in them and think they’re going to make great changes,” Lam said. “We pick our students to represent as wide of a community as possible. We did the same this year.”
All party leaders look forward to the next year with high hopes. In particular, Ickowitz said he hopes that the changed makeup of the senate, in which no party has a majority, will force collaboration among senators.
“When parties have to learn to cooperate with each other, it does more than create an atmosphere of collaboration,” Ickowitz said. “The larger diversity in the senate creates an atmosphere of collaboration in the wider Berkeley campus.”