Student Action scores the ASUC presidency

CalSERVE wins three executives and largest senate bloc; all 3 SQUELCH! senators elected

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

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For a photo gallery from the ASUC tabulations, click here.

ASUC executive and senate hopefuls crammed into the lecture hall of Valley Life Sciences Building with about 400 other spectators, shed tears and exchanged embraces as they learned the results of this year’s ASUC elections.

CalSERVE swept three out of the four partisan executive seats for the second year in a row, although it failed to grab the presidency.

This election, however, drew a lower voter turnout than it has the past two years, with 11,926 people participating. Last year’s election saw record turnout, with 15,430 participating.

CalSERVE executive candidates Justin Kong, Caitlin Quinn and Jeanette Corona won the positions of executive vice president, external affairs vice president and academic affairs vice president, respectively. Student Action’s sole executive candidate Pavan Upadhyayula took the presidential position, and independent candidate Rishi Ahuja won the position of student advocate by a hefty margin of 1,352 votes.

“It’s not entirely the results we wanted,” Quinn said. “I’ve worked with Pavan, so it’s not bad, but I would have preferred Naweed (Mohabbat), because we already have a good working relationship, so we’re going to have to do some work to get to that same level.”

Like current External Affairs Vice President Safeena Mecklai, Upadhyayula will be the only Student Action executive among three other CalSERVE executives and one independent executive.

“I’m going to use the rest of this year to make sure that next year will be one that really serves the students,” Upadhyayula said. “I know things got testy this election season, but my door is always going to be open, and now the ball’s in their court.”

This election cycle, Student Action veered from its traditional campaign tactics — not running four executive candidates, as it usually does — and instead largely focused its energy on Upadhyayula’s campaign. Since Student Action first secured the presidency in the 1996 election, it has occupied the seat 14 times. Current ASUC President DeeJay Pepito is only one of four CalSERVE presidents who have held the presidency since that time.

Quinn came out 1,475 votes ahead of her second-place opponent, independent candidate Nicolas Jaber, for the office of external affairs vice president. Kong and Corona won their offices by 2,168 and 1,886 votes, respectively. Still, the party’s presidential candidate, Mohabbat, fell 1,178 votes short of Upadhyayula in the final vote tally.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling, but more sweet than bitter,” said CalSERVE elections coordinator Denim Ohmit. “This is the second year in a row we won most of the executive seats. I think that’s a sign that CalSERVE’s message is really resonating with students.”

After the announcement, CalSERVE candidates and party members congregated outside of VLSB for their traditional “Unity Circle.”

“It’s important to recognize that we’re never going to stop — we’re going to keep working,” said CalSERVE’s presidential candidate Mohabbat to the group.

CalSERVE won one more senate seat than Student Action this election cycle, securing eight seats. Next year, it will be the largest voting bloc in the ASUC Senate with Melissa Hsu, King Xiong, Yordanos Dejen, Haley Broder, Jua n Manuel Heredia, Lavanya Jawaharlal, Baltazar Dasalla and Austin Pritzkat serving as senators. Pritzkat ran with both CalSERVE and the Cooperative Movement Party. Last year, the co-op party did not secure a senate seat, although it traditionally does.

“I’m so humbled right now,” Pritzkat said.  “This really shows the power of the cooperative movement in that, when we come together, we can accomplish a lot.”

CalSERVE, which has traditionally represented underrepresented groups such as the Latino and queer communities, expanded its representation in recent years and has newly elected senators from a wide range of communities, including the progressive Greek and engineering communities. Last year’s ASUC elections served as a comeback for CalSERVE, which had not held a majority of executive seats since the 2008-09 academic year.

Student Action, which traditionally draws support from the Greek and engineering communities, will have seven ASUC senators next year: Ori Herschmann, Paul Lee, Bo Nguyen, Eric Gabrielli, Hannah Frankl, Tanay Nandgaonkar and Vinay Ramesh. They will be joined by independent senatorial candidates Sid Puri and and Marium Navid. Navid ran backed by the Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian Coalition.

For the first time in ASUC history, SQUELCH! won three senatorial seats, one more than it currently holds in the senate. All three candidates running on the SQUELCH! senatorial slate — Grant Genske, Dree Kavoussi and Madison Gordon — were elected.

This year’s elections marked the second consecutive year in which the third party ran an entirely nonsatirical slate. The party broke from its tradition of running one serious senate candidate alongside several satirical candidates in the 2013 elections, when it ran a serious presidential candidate and seven senatorial candidates.

“It’s a landmark election for a third party,” said SQUELCH!’s external director Jason Bellet, who came in second in the ASUC presidential race last year. “I think the campus wants to see more dialogue and collaboration in what has been a divisive ASUC Senate.”

Although the Defend Affirmative Action Party ran a full slate of executive and senate candidates, it did not win any seats. Presidential candidates from DAAP, BearFeed.org and an independent candidate fell far behind the top two candidates in first-rank vote tallies.

The student technology fee referendum — which would charge students $51 per semester for software and technology — passed, but by a small margin of 107 votes, despite a lack of organized opposition. 

Staff writer Savannah Luschei contributed to this report.

Jane Nho is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @JaneNho.