The new political parties in Associated Students are under attack – by candidates inside and outside the party system.
The Election Code, which was changed this year to allow party affiliation to be stated on the ballots “was passed very hastily at the end,” A.S. President Mahader Tesfai said. Three parties have emerged from the measure – the Gauchoholics, Student Action Coalition (SAC) and People of Action.
“I see it as a good thing for students because they are more informed and being given the opportunity to elect a quality, functioning government instead of fragments that may not work together very well,” Gauchoholics Presidential candidate Brian Hampton said.
Presidential candidate Constantine Pastis, who started with a party and was originally in favor of the idea, is now running independently after he saw what direction the party situation was taking.
“The party affiliation is going to blow up,” Pastis said. “I don’t think it’s very positive for this campus the way it’s working right now. People say I have no chance without a party, but I think it’s an advantage … I don’t think I should compromise what I believe in for [the party’s interests].”
Even if the political parties do not directly benefit the student body, they could help individuals’ personal candidacy, Tesfai said.
“I think it would be positive – having a party affiliation can help give you a political stance and platform that just a name wouldn’t,” he said.
For candidates, the main advantage of party affiliation is the opportunity to pool resources and create a platform, Gauchoholics Internal Vice President candidate Shaina Walter said. Hampton, her running mate, cited publicity as the main advantage.
“By grouping together, we have formed a joint platform and can spread our information to many more people. … Many people joined parties to improve their visibility and help their chances of being elected,” Hampton said. “The downside is that if the overwhelming size of the party offends people, then it hurts us all.”
By pooling resources, party members are able to afford more campaign expenses, SAC Presidential candidate Bill Flores said. Flores, a Leg Council representative, fought the measure to allow party affiliation on the basis that it limits potential candidates.
“It’s disheartening because it really limits students and makes them feel out of the loop [if they are not in parties],” Flores said.
Some candidates did feel it necessary to run with parties for that reason.
“We didn’t think we’d have a reasonable chance if we ran independently,” People of Action Presidential candidate Patrick Schanes-Gallagher said. “This party association muddles things; the more people you have, the more vague it gets because it’s harder to be specific about a platform.”
Still, Walter and Hampton said people who could not join should not worry about the negatives, since some people are running independently.
“The people who are not in parties might not share the values and ideas of other candidates, so they would be running a fake campaign if they came together or [were] in a group that falls apart when their personal feelings come forward,” Hampton said.
Some see worse problems with running with a party than individually.
“When you pool resources together, you can just make a party name and you’re losing a lot of individuality. … If those are the reasons, it’s not right morally,” Pastis said. “If people get elected because of what party they’re in – not because of who they are – we could see the effects of this next year.”
By electing people from the same party into office, next year’s A.S. officials could have a different dynamic than officers who ran individually or with different parties.
“I feel that the best candidates for representing the ideals of the student body are the people in parties because they clearly have a group working toward a common goal, which is very beneficial to a government’s ability to work together,” Hampton said.
The decision to state party affiliation on the ballot was not a good one, Tesfai said.
“I was definitely against it … I tried to pass legislation to stop it. … It definitely creates division as well as unnecessary bureaucracy,” Tesfai said. “I think it will require students to be more responsible to see what the candidates stand for.”
“I think it’s going to be interesting to see how the party element plays out in the election … to see if people look at party lines or individuals and how the dynamic plays out in next year’s council,” Walter said.
The future of the measure allowing party affiliation to be stated on the ballot is not necessarily permanent, Schanes-Gallagher said.
“It depends on who’s elected, really,” he said. “I’d really hope the measure comes off the ballot. There will still be affiliation, but I don’t think it’ll be on the ballot.”