The 2009 Associated Students election ended Thursday in a landslide victory for the Open People’s Party.
The election was a virtual repeat of last year’s contest, with OPP once again dominating across the board. OPP took 26 of the 29 positions up for grabs and swept four of the five executive offices, with Charlie Arreola winning president, Chris Wendle capturing internal vice president, Clay Carlson taking external vice president of local affairs and Celina Ayala securing external vice president of statewide affairs. Kelsey Fisher, an independent running against four other candidates, was elected as student advocate general. Each executive officer receives free tuition – funded by student fees – for the duration of their term.
Additionally, every A.S. fee reaffirmation on the ballot passed, including the Daily Nexus’ lock-in fee initiative. The results for the campuswide lock-in fees were not available as of press time.
This election saw the largest turnout in years, bringing out 5,872 voters to the polls and easily passing the 20 percent threshold with 33 percent of students casting a ballot.
While OPP candidates experienced sweeping success, the opposition parties did not fare well. Student Voice! garnered only two seats on the Legislative Council, and no candidates from Students With a Plan – a newly created third party – were elected. OPP will represent an overwhelming majority on next year’s council, with 22 members elected.
As the contenders waited for hours in the MultiCultural Center for the results, the two major parties stood divided into clans of blue-clad OPP members and green T-shirt sporting SV! supporters. When the winners were announced, the OPP side of the room erupted in cheers, while the SV! faction had a decidedly more somber reaction and quickly left the scene.
Arreola, who received 58.77 percent of the vote, said his party plans to represent the entire student body, not simply their supporters.
“I’m so excited,” Arreola said. “We worked really hard at everything we did. … The students spoke. It’s the way to look at it. This is just an example of our dedication. OPP is going to work for everyone, not just OPP students.”
Student Voice! presidential candidate Paulina Abustan, who received 41.23 percent of the vote, had a different take on the election, however.
“We can’t keep seeing the same people elected – they’re all from RHA,” Abustan said. “It’s becoming a dictatorship. Our campus needs to do more research on candidates instead of voting for someone who gives them a free hotdog. … It’s the same mentality, the same people getting elected.”
Abustan said A.S. elections are unfairly decided by the amount of money each party funnels into their campaign.
“Seeing how the party system works, you need to have a lot of money,” Abustan said. “I’m seeing this as a classist issue. We can’t fund a $10,000 campaign.”
Meanwhile, newly elected IVP Wendle – who was so overwhelmed by emotion that he struggled to speak – said he had worked toward this election for three years and will strive to uphold the promises he made while campaigning.
“Wow, I’m really excited for the school,” Wendle said. “Excited to do things next year. Starting tomorrow, there’s a lot of work to get done, to get prepared for next year. I never imagined this. I just have this amazing feeling. This is three years in the making. We’re going to make this right. I’m going to try my best to fulfill everything. I didn’t just say things to get elected, I care about the association, the school.”
External Vice President of Statewide Affairs-elect Celina Ayala said she was equally thrilled with her win.
“I’m happy, excited, glad about everything,” she said. “I’m excited to get to work.”
Janelle Mungo, the S.W.A.P. candidate for external vice president of statewide affairs, said she wasn’t disappointed about her personal loss but was frustrated about the lack of representation among the winners.
“I’m fine that I didn’t win,” Mungo said. “I’m not happy that OPP took [almost] every position. S.W.A.P. tried to get in there, but it wasn’t enough. There is very little representation now. It’s just the people who put the most money into it. It’s very disheartening. It’ll be good, we’ll still strive for change. It’s just going to be a year of struggle.”