Number of independent candidates increases for ASUC elections

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Chris Chung/File
Independent comprise the majority of candidates on the 2021 ASUC election ballot, with Student Action standing as the only official party.

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In this year’s upcoming ASUC elections, independents comprise the majority of candidates on the ballot, with Student Action standing as the only official party.

Many independents cited greater control over their platform and campaign messaging as the primary reasons for running outside of the party system.

“When you join a party, you’re expected to toe the party line, even if you don’t agree with everything the party stands for,” said independent Senate candidate Brendan Roberts in an email. “Being independent gives you the freedom to form your own platforms instead of repeating the party’s.”

Running as independent, nonetheless, has potential disadvantages. Whereas party and coalition members have a solidified base and network of support backing them, Carlos Pareja said he has been more limited in his ability to reach out to people running as an independent Senate candidate.

Despite this obstacle, Pareja stands behind his decision to run independently as it is the best way for him to focus on improving the lives of the student body.

Independent candidates won the majority of executive seats in last year’s ASUC elections for the first time in five years. Additionally, independents took control of the ASUC Senate in 2020, breaking Student Action’s two-year plurality in the Senate.

Elevate Cal — a newly formed coalition of independent candidates — hopes to transcend the “trivial matters” of party politics and find new ways for candidates to collaborate, according to Moorea Benmosche, coalition chair of ElevateCal.

“The party politics of the past have been known to isolate marginalized groups and steer the focus away from making campus a better place and more into petty drama,” Benmosche said in an email.

She noted that ElevateCal candidates are dedicated to ensuring a more inclusive campus for all students and making the inner workings of the ASUC more transparent.

Independent Senate candidate Stephanie Wong, who is running with ElevateCal, said many students have expressed frustrations with the “toxic” party politics in the ASUC. By gathering diverse candidates under the banner of ElevateCal, Wong hopes that they can focus on primarily serving student interests and getting conversations started.

On the other hand, Student Action — which has historically represented the Jewish community, engineering students and Greek life — believes the current shift towards independent candidacies will not persist, citing the party system’s ability to amalgamate, uplift and serve different campus communities.

In their case, Student Action emphasized their party’s platform of preserving the ASUC’s student autonomy, representing all communities on campus and governing through practical and tangible measures.

This year’s lack of party competition reflects the “natural ebb and flow” of party formation and collapse, according to Student Action.

“Student Action always maintains a focus on serving the student body with empathy and compassion,” Student Action said in an email. “We understand that some communities choose to run candidates independently and we 100% support them and aim to support their needs as well.”

ASUC elections will be held virtually from April 5 to April 7.

Contact Kaleo Mark at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @kaleomark_dc.