Independent candidates sweep majority in ASUC Senate for 2nd year in a row

Infographic depicting 2021 ASUC elections Senate, Transfer Representative results
Simmone Stearn/Staff

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Erupting in a mix of emotions across different countries, independent candidates won the majority of ASUC Senate seats for the second consecutive year, as announced during Saturday’s virtual tabulations ceremony.

Only 28 candidates ran for the 20 senate seats the lowest amount in more than five years — with many striving to uplift marginalized voices, ensure a smooth transition to in-person instruction and strengthen mental health resources. Student Action ran 11 candidates, and the remaining 17 students ran independently, six of them under the newly formed ElevateCal coalition.

The upcoming academic year’s ASUC senators will be independents Gabrielle Sharp, Amanda Hill, Griselda Vega Martinez, Mehnaz Grewal, Varsha Madapoosi, Osiris Polachart, Kalli Zervas and Sammy Raucher; independents under ElevateCal Issabella Romo, Stephanie Wong, Jason Dones and Dil Sen; and Student Action’s Elif Sensurucu, Ashley Rehal, Adrianna Ngo, Samantha Coffey, Muzamil Ahmad, Amy Chen, Sophie Morris and Jerry Xu.

“I’m super happy. I definitely just want to congratulate everyone else that ran,” Ahmad said. “It’s been such a grueling past three months and so everyone that won or lost, everyone should be really proud of themselves and the work they put in.”

Students who ran independently make up the majority in the current ASUC Senate; 11 of the senators ran independently, five ran with ElevateCal, which is not an officially recognized party, and the rest ran under Student Action. The results of this election align with last year’s as independents once again clinched the majority, with 12 independent senators and eight Student Action senators. 

With Student Action candidate Jake Mehari dropping out of the race for transfer representative early on, ElevateCal independent candidate Gabriel Alfaro ran unopposed. He secured 1030 votes, becoming the second transfer representative in ASUC history.

Serving as chief of staff for ASUC Senator Liam Will’s office throughout the past year, some of Alfaro’s plans include working to guarantee housing for first-year transfer students and create mentorship opportunities for community college students in student government. 

“Because I ran unopposed overall, a lot of my campaign was spent getting transfer students engaged,” Alfaro said. “I feel good about the work we did engaging and connecting to transfer students who weren’t so sure about the process.”

Voters elected a majority of independent candidates who ran, with eight out of the 11 securing seats in the senate. 

Vega Martinez, the Latinx community-endorsed candidate, reflected on the difficulties her campaign endured being an independent candidate, but said she wants to get started immediately contacting Latinx organizations to start meetings. 

“I received a lot of support within my community and even outside of my community,” Vega Martinez said. “Sometimes it’s difficult for independent candidates to get benefits because of the amount of labor that goes into it.”

Sharp, who was endorsed by the Black community and the queer and transgender, or QT, community on campus, said she is excited to continue the work she has already started, including defunding the police and working on Black QT programming. 

With the number of independent candidates set to be in the senate, QT-endorsed candidate Hill also said they are excited to see candidates such as Sharp and Madapoosi, who also have community endorsements, in the senate. 

“I am honestly so excited by the amount of independent candidates that won, especially since a lot of the independent candidates are backed by communities,” Hill said. “I really think that this will shake things up in the ASUC.”

Roberts, an independent candidate who lost this election, said he hopes to see more parties run candidates next year but is glad independents will make up a majority of seats. 

Four of the five remaining independent candidates running under ElevateCal were elected into the senate. 

Wong, who was elected under ElevateCal, said her first step will be to “grab this pandemic by the horns” and focus on the fall 2021 transition. She added she hopes to speak to fellow senators over the summer to prepare for the transition back to in-person classes. 

“I’m very excited to be working with everyone on the senate slate for next year,” Wong said. “I’m very proud of us running on values we believe in despite everything, despite the coronavirus pandemic, despite technological slip-ups at times, and I really think that there is a lot of potential.” 

The remaining eight senators ran under Student Action, which will once again be the sole party in the senate. 

While some campaigning was virtual last year as well, Ahmad said virtual campaigns this year were especially grueling as candidates just spent the day sitting at a computer, straining their eyes. 

Morris also noted campaigns this year were difficult as half the student body hasn’t been on campus long. 

“I’m also just happy for all the candidates in general, it’s really hard to run during pandemic,” Morris said. “It is still really cool to see how people do still care about making campus a better place.” 

Staff writers Emma Taila, Serene Chang, Cindy Liu, Kelly Suth and Iris Kwok contributed to this report.

Contact Amanda Bradford, Maria Young and Maxine Mouly at [email protected].