After an election wrought with hard work and briefly marred by controversy, the student body has chosen its elected officials for the coming year in ASUCD.
Jack Zwald and Previn Witana of LEAD won the executive ticket by a margin of 3.6 percent. Of the 3,452 ballots cast for the presidential election, 213 of which were exhausted in the second round, the LEAD ticket received 1,678, or 51.8 percent. In a close second, Sergio Blanco and Vishakha Patel of JAM received 48.2 percent of the vote.
For the senate, winners were independent candidates Adam Thongsavat, Selisa Romero and Alison Tanner of JAM, and Ozzy Arce, Osahon Ekhator and Liz Walz of LEAD.
Zwald expressed both anxiety leading up to the final count as well as relief once results were announced, noting that it was a much closer race than some realize.
“In real politics, 3.6 percent is a big number,” he said. “But with a voting pool of only about 4,000 – 548 of which abstained from voting for the executive – that’s not a huge victory. My opponents were working hard and I was definitely nervous. But, when I heard that I’d won, I was absolutely ecstatic.”
Blanco said he wasn’t disappointed about losing.
“I wasn’t doing this on a personal level,” he said. “I was doing this for the students. But I’m confident [Zwald and Witana] will do the best they can.”
Blanco said he doesn’t need a title to stay active on campus.
“I will continue to do what an ASUCD [official] does without the label,” Blanco said. “What they do, I already do. And what [Zwald and Witana] are going to start doing, I’ve been doing. My only fear is that the voices of ASUCD outsiders gets limited. Elected officials [are increasingly coming] from the same student organizations.”
Greg Webb and Jessica Martin ran for the executive on an independent ticket and received the third most votes.
Webb could not be reached for comment.
Martin expressed optimism at the opportunity to participate in student government, regardless of an executive victory.
“I never dreamed I’d have an opportunity to run for office,” she said. “It was a lot of work and I’m disappointed that I lost, but I just hope that [Zwald and Witana] keep their promises and do a good job. For me, I think I’d rather stay behind the scenes and try to have an invisible hand in making something happen.”
Zwald responded to the expectations students have for the executive with a pledge to proceed with his campaign platforms and to provide students with tangible change.
According to Zwald, their first action upon taking office will be to start examining the budget for waste and to address the issue of excess money spent on telecommunications before the budget hearings at the end of the quarter. They will also make their main campaign platform, the reduction of minimum progress for class units, a priority once they assume office at the last senate meeting of the quarter on March 11.
Thongsavat – the first-place winner for the senate – received 511 votes in the first round of ballot-casting, and meeting the 519-vote threshold by the following round. Independent Raj Kumar ran jointly with Thongsavat as an independent, but came 19 votes shy of securing the sixth senate seat ahead of Romero.
“I’ve seen people in past elections fall into the trap of getting too confident or arrogant,” Thongsavat said. “And I didn’t want to do the same. In fact, when the results were announced, I don’t even remember hearing my name get called. It was such a shock that I had won.”
Thongsavat said he’ll focus on increasing Picnic Day revenues, establishing a partnership between ASUCD and downtown Davis businesses by the end of next spring and establishing renters’ rights for students in Davis.
Thinking past the celebratory period, senator-elect Osahon Ekhator expressed an anticipation for taking his seat on the senate and getting to work.
“I’m going to hit the ground running,” he said. “My first step will be to further immerse myself in UC Davis and reach out to the communities that elected me. There’s a lot of work to be done and I’m in this for the long haul.”
Despite the concerns of some, Thongsavat maintained optimism about the future of ASUCD student government and politics.
“A lot of people are saying we’re doomed,” he said. “But I think we’ll be in good shape. Everyone might not always agree, but the senate won’t be a hyper-partisan environment. I think we’re all just ready to get working on the issues of the folks who elected us.”
KYLE SPORLEDER can be reached at email@example.com.