Student Action wins majority of senate seats in ASUC 2018 elections

Joshua Jordan/Senior Staff
Josh Jordan / Staff

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Pauley Ballroom erupted in screams — both elated and dismayed — as results of the ASUC senatorial elections beamed onto the big screen Friday, marking the end of a grueling campaign season.

Student Action won a majority of the ASUC Senate seats — the first time since 2012 that any one party has won a majority of the senate.

This year, 37 senators ran on platforms, including increasing diversity in the Greek community, holding the UC Board of Regents accountable and advocating for transfer and low-income students.

Eleven out of 14 Student Action senatorial candidates won: Zach Carter, Isabella Chow, Justin Greenwald, Saakshi Goel, Nikhil Harish, James Li, Amma Sarkodee-Adoo, Karina Sun, Andy Theocharous, William Wang and Anne Zepecki. The party won one more senate seat than it did in the 2017-18 election.

“I am so excited to get my project to work and see everything come to fruition,” Sarkodee-Adoo, who is focused on diversifying the Greek community and other clubs on campus, said through excited screams.

Three out of seven CalSERVE senate candidates won — Teddy Lake, Idalys Vanessa Pérez and Amir Wright. Last year, CalSERVE took five senate seats after running six senates candidates. CalSERVE won seven senate spots in 2016 and eight in 2015.

“When I started this campaign, I made this very clear that this wasn’t about me,” Lake, who ran to represent LGBTQ+ students, said. “Being elected means I can uplift the voices of the people who elected me — I’m ready to use my leverage to lift that into the senate.”

Current ASUC Senator Hani Hussein expressed her disappointment after the results.

“(I’m) incredibly frustrated that qualifications, experience and genuine leadership mean jack shit,” Hussein said. “It’s never been built for us, and for you to be labeled as too much for a leadership position says something about the community that you’re trying to lead.”

The Defend Affirmative Action Party, or DAAP, ran four candidates this year: freshman Stephanie Gutierrez for president and for senate; junior Casey Leeds for student advocate and for senate; senior Richard Alvarado for senate; and freshman Mary Carrasco for senate. DAAP candidates did not secure any of the seats they were vying for.

Karen Chow / Staff

Karen Chow / Staff

The party continued its trend of running candidates for both executive and senatorial positions, as it did in the spring 2017 ASUC elections.

After a brief stint in the 2016-17 ASUC elections, the Pirate Party neither filed nor ran candidates this year, straying from last year, which saw Sunny Aggarwal — one of the party’s three senate candidates — win a senate seat. Aggarwal was later replaced by another Pirate Party candidate — Jonathan Allen — after Aggarwal resigned in October.

SQUELCH!, which historically runs both satirical and nonsatirical candidates, filed as a party this year, but ran no candidates.

“I feel like I dodged a bullet,” Theocharous, who ran to represent Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and veteran interests. “This was a very tough election. And I am one of the candidates without a large community.”

For those candidates who were not as lucky, however, this loss can come as a blow for their respective communities.

“Beyond just losing, I think it’s a big community loss too,” said Neil McClintick, a former columnist for The Daily Californian who is a transfer student himself. “For incoming transfer students, they won’t have any representation next year — yet we elected a squirrel.”

asuc-election-results-2018-vertical-01Independent candidates have proven that they are a mainstay in ASUC elections. After winning four senate seats in the 2017-18 ASUC elections, six of the 12 independent candidates on the ballot won this year: Nick Araujo, Imran Khan, Regina Kim, Aaron Bryce Lee, Anna Whitney and Furry Boi (“a squirrel” whose proxy is Stephen Boyle).

Furry Boi called his win a great victory for squirrels everywhere, proving that they too can be senators.

“I think everyone’s win is well deserved,” Lee, a member of the East Asian community and a policy writer in the ASUC, said. “Every single senator had unique approaches. … This is a different campaign from every other year. We can see what the most effective way to reach the student population is.”

It’s a remarkable shift considering that only two years ago, a single independent candidate won. While this year witnessed a shift back to an election dominated by the two largest parties — CalSERVE and Student Action — with some candidate contributions from DAAP, it also saw a rise in independent candidates: from eight in 2016-17 to 12 in 2017-18.

This comes in contrast with last year’s changing partisanship landscape, when five campus parties and a slew of independents flooded campaign rhetoric.

“I never thought this was something I could do,” Carter, who ran on increasing accessibility to DSP resources, said tearfully. “I’m a queer person. I’m a survivor of sexual violence. I never thought I could fill this seat. … Everyone who got a seat did it for the right reasons and should be proud.”

Senior staff writers Suhauna Hussain, Sydney Fix and Malini Ramaiyer and staff writers Anjali Shrivastava, Miyako Iwata, Jessíca Jiménez, Sakura Cannestra, Mariam Zagub and Isabella Sabri contributed to this report.

Ani Vahradyan is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anivahrad.