As ASUCD President Joe Chatham and Vice President Chris Dietrich near the end of their term, three new candidates vie for the soon-to-be vacant executive office.
The three presidential hopefuls are Jack Zwald of LEAD and independent candidates Greg Webb and Sergio Blanco.
One of the contenders, junior international relations major Jack Zwald, claims to bring both an understanding of complex ASUCD dynamics as well as an unmatched level of experience to the position.
“[I’m an] effective moderate negotiator and I know how to manage the system,” he said.
Zwald served a term as an ASUCD senator from 2008 to 2009, during which he coauthored the successful External Representation Amendment along with ASUCD Controller Eli Yani. Zwald also authored Senate Bill 30, which aimed to achieve greater budget transparency.
Previn Witana, current ASUCD senator and president pro tempore, is Zwald’s running mate. Zwald said Witana, a senior molecular and cellular biology major, is an experienced leader and has a strong interest in the “underrepresented” science community.
Zwald and Witana’s main campaign platforms include a reduction of minimum progress requirements from 13 to 12 units, an opt-in tutoring program which would utilize administrators, cooperation with local businesses that wish to invest in UC Davis, increased entertainment opportunities on campus and revamping the campus’ wasteful sprinkler system.
“Presidents typically walk a fine line between being an antagonist of the administration or [being] in their laps,” Zwald said. “I’ll be in the middle. At the end of the day, [I’m trying] to do a good job for the students.”
Another candidate for office is senior political science and economics double major Greg Webb. Webb, who ran three consecutive unsuccessful senate campaigns prior to this presidential bid, hopes to bring his unique experience to the table.
“The problem with experience is if you’re an ASUCD insider, you don’t understand the outside perspective,” he said. “I’ve always been able to raise issues and make sure the senate is addressing issues [important to] the student body.”
Webb’s vice presidential pick, sophomore Jessica Martin, is a member of the ASUCD Outreach Assembly. Webb said Martin brings a fresh perspective to their diverse ticket.
Among their primary campaign goals are advocating for a repeal of the 32 percent fee increase, ensuring that ASUCD lobbies for budget reform with the state government in Sacramento, facilitating internal reform of ASUCD especially within the Outreach Assembly and working to improve the ASUCD website so that it features senate bills in their full text.
“I’ve always been an agenda-setter. [Even] without a formal title, I’ve been very successful at raising issues,” Webb said. “I’m a big advocate for open government and, while I have opinions, I must run on issues that [the students and I] jointly agree on.”
The last candidate for the presidency is senior political science and Spanish double major Sergio Blanco. Blanco, who served as a senator in his sophomore year. Blanco worked on a bill that sought to expand foreign languages on campus while an intern of then-senator Ivan Carrillo, who later became ASUCD president.
Running alongside Blanco is Vishakha Patel, a junior sociology major with an emphasis in law and society. Patel, who was involved with ASUCD outreach unit Pathfinder before its discontinuance, is also a peer advisor with the Education Opportunity Program.
Although Blanco and Patel missed the deadline to turn in their notice of candidacy, the Elections Committee voted in favor of allowing the team to run.
“[There was] a compelling student interest in allowing candidates to run in an election, especially in light of their completed student petition that clearly indicated the intent of the candidates to run and the endorsement of a significant number of students,” said Nick Sidney, elections committee chair in a public statement.
One of his and Patel’s main issues, Blanco said, is ASUCD support for student causes, such as the Mrak Hall protests.
“There needs to be representation of my constituency,” he said. “I’m not about politics. I’d rather be at student group meetings knowing what’s going on than at senate meetings engaging in disrespectful bickering [that] takes away from the real issues.”
The issues they hope to address consist of increasing retention rates in order to protect the value of a UC Davis education, expanding tutoring services through a partnership with the Learning Skills Center, creating a workshop for first generation college students that teach them what services they have available, gaining more space for studying during finals week and sponsoring the fundraisers of student organizations so that they can turn a better profit.
“I’m not a politician, I’m a community organizer,” Blanco said. “I don’t feel like anyone else running right now understands the issues. We don’t just know about the issues, we are doing something about them because my goals are not my goals, they are the students’ goals.”
Polling will be open from Feb. 17 through 19 on the ASUCD elections web page.
KYLE SPORLEDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.