Independents win majority of ASUC executive seats for first time in 5 years

infographic about 2020 asuc executive elections
Connor Lin/Senior Staff

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Independent candidates won the majority of ASUC executive seats in the 2020 ASUC elections for the first time in five years, as announced at Friday’s tabulations ceremony.

Next year’s executive offices will be filled by independent candidate Victoria Vera as president; current ASUC Senator Melvin Tangonan, who ran with Student Action, as executive vice president; current ASUC Senator Nicole Anyanwu, who originally ran with the REBUILD coalition but has since disaffiliated, as academic affairs vice president; current ASUC Senator Derek Imai, who is also a former member of the REBUILD coalition, as external affairs vice president; and independent candidate Joyce Huchin as student advocate.

“I think a lot of students were really disheartened in how the ASUC is going. No matter what the outcome was,” Vera said. “I’m just really happy that people got behind my message.”

Hours before the election, current ASUC Senator Haazim Amirali, who was running with Student Action, ended his presidential bid amid allegations. Amirali was considered by many to be the frontrunner in the race before he ended his campaign.

This year’s election brought a new makeup of executive candidates in comparison to the last two years, during which Student Action dominated 75% of the offices. With Amirali dropping out and leaving Tangonan the sole Student Action candidate in the running, the party will only have one executive seat for the 2020-21 academic year.

Anyanwu and Imai also changed their campaign hours before voting opened, disaffiliating from the REBUILD coalition amid allegations of sexual harassment against party leadership and rebranding as independents.

Amirali still appeared on the ballot due to the late timing of his announcement and garnered 2,510 votes. Due to the timing of their disaffiliation, Anyanwu and Imai were still listed on the ballot under the REBUILD coalition.

“For lack of better words, I think we definitely are in a very big pivotal moment with the ASUC and based off what we’ve seen with the elected officers alone in terms of the execs. … I don’t even know what to say about this,” Imai said. “There’s such a big potential for change and I’m excited to see what we can accomplish this year.”

Defend Affirmative Action Party/Fighting for Immigrant Rights and Equality, or DAAP/FIRE, candidate Stephanie Gutierrez was outvoted by Vera with a margin of 2,881 votes. This was Gutierrez’s third time running for the position unsuccessfully.

Gutierrez was in third place, so her votes were reallocated to her voters’ second-choice candidates.

“DAAP/FIRE would like to thank all our supporters who voted and campaigned with us during these ASUC 2020 elections,” DAAP/FIRE said in a press release. “We understand that the votes represent but a fraction of the popularity and support for our platform and the movement on campus that we represent.”

For EVP, Tangonan won against DAAP/FIRE candidate Ashley Carrillo by a margin of 864 votes.

The EAVP race was more crowded than both the president and EVP race this year, a stark contrast from last year when current EAVP Varsha Sarveshwar ran opposed. Ultimately, however, Imai was the voters’ choice over DAAP/FIRE candidate Abel De La Cruz and People’s Party candidate Augusto Gonzalez, garnering a winning 2,338 votes.

For AAVP, Anyanwu won against DAAP/FIRE’s Reilani Gervacio by 1,400 votes.

“I feel really great, this is a win for marginalized communities,” Anyanwu said. “To be 100% transparent, I didn’t send a single promotional message because I thought if people believed in me and my vision, they would vote for me. So the fact that I didn’t do all that and people still voted, it shows it’s a grassroots effort.”

Joyce Huchin, who is the chief of staff for current Student Advocate Nava Bearson, became Bearson’s successor with 2,034 votes, compared to DAAP/FIRE candidate and campus freshman Isabel Penman’s 1,393 votes.

Without a single seat, DAAP/FIRE’s total loss leaves Tangonan as the only partisan member of the executive. Tangonan said, however, that he is considering adopting independent status as well.

“We did good, but it was also a learning process for all of us because we wanted to definitely move forward with our candidacy without an affiliated party anymore. Just speaking for myself, it’s not permanent yet,” Tangonan said. “Overall great job to everyone, I want to congratulate everyone on their win. Just really proud of the hard work and dedication, especially doing everything online.”

Staff writers Maya Akkaraju, Sebastian Cahill, Audry Jeong, Nina Narahari, Eric Rogers and Angelina Wang contributed to this report.

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