Independent candidates win majority of ASUC Senate seats

infographic about 2020 asuc senate elections
Emily Bi/Senior Staff

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Independent candidates will dominate the ASUC Senate in the next academic year, as announced during the tabulation ceremony Friday.

This year, 38 candidates ran for ASUC Senate, including 10 candidates from Student Action, which won a majority of seats last year. Four candidates ran for transfer student representative, a new office in the ASUC.

Of these candidates, Student Action’s Ruchi Shah, Ronit Sholkoff, Sheena Dichoso Echano, Maddy Chen, Julia Castro, Ellis Spickermann, Michael Savides, Rex Zhang and Samuel Peng; and independents Chaka Tellem, Sarah Bancroft, Rebecca Soo, Aasim Yahya, Liam Will, Naomi Garcia, Mateo Torrico, Alexis Aguilar, Apoorva Prakash, Dhruv Krishnaswamy and Sahvannah Rodriguez were elected to be the ASUC senators for the next academic year. Independent candidate Valerie Johnson was elected to serve as the first transfer student representative in ASUC history.

“I’m really excited to get to work and work for transfer students,” Johnson said. “I want to make transfers proud.”

Student Action also ran Lauren-Cecile Lizardo Galang as its 11th senate candidate, but Lizardo Galang dropped out before the election, citing declining mental health and extenuating circumstances due to COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, as the motivating factor in this decision.

Participating in elections for the first time, the REBUILD coalition initially nominated seven senate candidates and one candidate for transfer student representative, all of whom have since disaffiliated from the party and declared their campaigns independent amid allegations of sexual harassment against party leadership.

Voters still saw the REBUILD party name on the ballot, however, as the campaign changes were made after the ballot was finalized. Lizardo Galang ended her campaign before the ballot finalization deadline and was not on the ballot.

Of REBUILD’s original eight non-executive candidates, five won their seats.

“Overall it was a challenge and I think it went well. The team was able to overcome a lot of the hurdles, corona being one of the biggest ones and the fact that we weren’t able to engage with students on campus and, you know, what happened with REBUILD,” Tellem said. “Overall I’m proud of my team, they were able to persevere, and we know the voters got what they wanted.”

Student Action won nine out of their 10 senate races Friday.

This is the first time in two years, however, that Student Action, which historically has represented the Jewish community, engineering students and Greek life, will not hold a plurality of the senate.

Student Action did not run any candidates for transfer student representative.

DAAP/FIRE did not win any seats in this election, a continuation from last year’s total loss as well.

“DAAP/FIRE candidates have had the courage to stand on principle and run for ASUC with DAAP/FIRE, and have been committed to our party platform rooted in building a new civil rights/ immigrant rights and student movement on campus,” the party said in a press release. “We will continue to be absolutely committed to build the movement to fight for and win our campaign demands.”

Both the Transfer Coalition and the People’s Party both registered as new parties for this election, each running only one candidate, but both failed to gain a seat, leaving Student Action as the sole party in the senate.

Harmony Bulloch, the Transfer Coalition’s senate candidate, was unable to run under her party name for a majority of the election as the ASUC Elections Council originally denied the coalition party status — a decision that was overturned by the ASUC Judicial Council just two days before voting began.

“I think that I’m really happy that I did it. I’m still disappointed that I faced so many barriers, especially with the Transfer Coalition name and not finding out until two days until voting started that we were going through that appeal process,” Bulloch said. “At the end of the day, we were able to secure the Transfer Coalition name. That, I think, is the most important part of all of this.”

Bulloch was not visible in the tabulation for ASUC Senate during the ceremony. According to a press release from ASUC Elections Council chair James Weichert, there was an error in the setup of the tabulator.

Weichert ran the tabulator again for Bulloch to appear as a candidate, the press release added. The new running of the tabulator, however, did not change the ASUC Senate election results and the candidates elected remained the same.

People’s Party candidate Augusto Gonzalez had a similar fate to Bulloch and also did not win any seats. Gonzalez ran for senate and transfer student representative, as well as external affairs vice president.

“Even though I may not have won my election, I’m glad that people had a chance to vote and make sure their voices were heard,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully we can all go back next semester but as for me, I hope to work with whoever is elected as EAVP and provide them my know-how. … I do hope that I can be of service in some way to help their cause.”

Independents won a majority of seats in the election, after only gaining four out of 20 seats in last year’s election. Of the 13 independent candidates, not including those originally with REBUILD, seven won seats. With REBUILD, independent candidates make up 11 of the seats.

Current ASUC Senators Liam Will and Rebecca Soo, who both ran for re-election without backing from a party, were re-elected for a second term.

“I’m excited to serve another term. I’m excited to see and get started on all the work that needs to be done,” Soo said. “This campaign season was definitely more difficult than my previous one. … I think that the campaign overall has definitely gone very well and I’m proud of my team.”

Staff writers Maya Akkaraju, Rachel Barber, Olivia Buccieri, Olivia González-Britt, Natalie Gott, Dina Katgara and Nina Narahari contributed to this report.

Kate Finman is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.