Throughout the Associated Students elections last week, UCSB’s two major political rivals, the Students’ Party and the Open People’s Party, vied for students’ votes with an appeal to their stomachs. Their epoch “war of nutrition,” a fine testament to the determination and cookery of our school’s government contenders, waged on for four days at the entrance of Pardall Road.

The standoff began as a relatively inconspicuous affair with the OPP offering a few grilled items and SP giving out little more than Krispy Kremes and coffee, but it soon mushroomed in to a full-out “battle of the buffets.”

(For interested readers, I should note here that two alternate descriptors, “Calorie Campaign” and “Viet-YUM” were considered briefly for publication above, but ultimately discarded in favor of the “war of nutrition” and the “battle of the buffets.” If you prefer the former pair, I highly recommend that you make the appropriate substitutions and I expect that your subsequent reading will be far more enjoyable, rewarding and perhaps, I dare say, even enlightening. Your caring friend and columnist, Zach.)

In addition to the food and drink, each party provided students with computers and Internet access to ensure the immediate casting of ballots on Gaucho GOLD. The setup was designed to combat the infamous UCSB student apathy that threatened to invalidate this year’s election – 21.95 percent of the population voted, 20 percent was needed – and to give candidates a chance to persuade their constituents. Some had other reasons. Zach Skigen, an OPP candidate for off-campus rep, was driven by what might be described as paternal feelings for the UCSB population. “You matter to us, and we want to feed you,” he said, referring to the students.

Most of the time that the dueling parties were touting their slogans and advertising their edibles – the former gave me a terrible case of indigestion – they were less than 20 feet away from each other. Despite the proximity, not many words were exchanged and tensions grew as the election approached its end. Menus became more elaborate and appetizing, and the competition surged to “Iron Chef” proportions.

For the better half of the week, SP outshined OPP with their delicious selection of charred delights, the work of Gloria Schindler, a rep-at-large candidate, but more importantly, the Grill Master. After being banned from grilling in the street for lack of the proper permit, they relocated the grill to a supporter’s yard nearby, thus avoiding certain disaster. The OPP was not so fortunate and they floundered. Without a grill, they resigned themselves to handing out packaged snacks and candy. It was stones against tanks – tasty, succulent, ketchup covered tanks.

But on the final day of the elections, OPP regained ground with a blitzkrieg offensive. They set up separate stations outside of Dublin’s and Sam’s To Go, where they provided voters with free hot dogs and sandwiches, respectively. In my eyes this was the tipping point of the election, and explains why OPP won the two top executive spots – A.S. president and internal vice president.

However, candidates from both parties claimed that the food had little influence on voters’ decisions.

Misa Nuccio, a voter and an eater, said that she “ended up voting for OPP because they gave me a free sub.”

Matt Anderson, a fourth-year global studies major, summed up his philosophy in the phrase, “Give me a taco and you’ve got my vote.”

Kirk, a bystander that would not give me his last name, wisely noted that “shit was going down,” and then asked me to quote him as “saying something funny.”

Joe Harvell, a student who had just cast his ballot, was less excited about the situation and remarked in protest, “I don’t want the election of the student government, and the direction my school takes, to be based off [of] who has better food to offer.” I agree with Joe. Dining atmosphere and the quality of service are just as important as the meal itself. In this respect, the Students’ Party won. They were more cordial, spirited and entertaining. And they had hookah. As their candidate for internal vice president Matt Jackson said, “We’re more dance-oriented, more fun-oriented and more cool-oriented.” If it had not felt too ethically dubious, I would have given them a tip. Instead, I gave them a few votes.