“Year after year, the same types of candidates run, not just for president, but also for Senate,” said Jed Feiman (COL ’12). “They talk about changing GUSA, but you can’t change the image of GUSA with the same types of people.”
Feiman is one of three presidential candidates who distanced himself from the Georgetown University Student Association establishment in their bid for the presidency. The idea of being an “outsider” is a key feature in today’s GUSA election, which marks the culmination of two weeks of campaigning for the four 2011-2012 GUSA presidential candidates and their running mates.
Ace Factor (COL’ 12), a former GUSA senator, similarly distanced himself from the GUSA leadership.
“I don’t have the GUSA endorsement and I don’t consider myself a GUSA insider,” Factor said.
Meanwhile, Charlie Joyce (COL ’12), GUSA executive for student safety, became an “outsider” candidate only when, by his own account, his bid for sitting president Calen Angert’s (MSB ’11) endorsement fell flat.
“I think the biggest hurdle, although [it was] something that helped me out in the long run, was running against the institution of GUSA,” he said.
Now, Joyce is seeking support by directly engaging students and by reaching out to leaders from major student groups, such as DC Students Speak, Alpha Phi Omega, the Student Activities Commission, College Democrats, College Republicans, and various academic councils.
Another theme is the race is grassroots engagement, which, by the candidates’ own accounts, played a key role in every campaign.
“You can chat someone up on Facebook or put up a YouTube video, but you’re not going to understand the details of people’s concerns and what they’re truly thinking unless you have a face-to-face conversation with them,” said GUSA vice presidential candidate Greg Laverriere (COL ’12), who is running with Mike Meaney (SFS ‘12). “That’s why going door-to-door is so important,”
Laverriere and Meaney have been able to make particularly effective use of door-to-door canvassing because they enjoy the institutional support and manpower that comes from being endorsed by the current GUSA president. Laverriere claimed that “at least a plurality” of the executive and the Senate were actively campaigning for him.
A hazard of the door-to-door campaigning, however, is that students may be intimidated by an aggressive effort by the candidates to increase their visibility in the dorms. In New South, several people complained that the candidates were very persistent in trying to get would-be voters to put up their posters.
Sarah Quincy (COL ’14), a New South resident, was one of the students targeted by overzealous campaigning.
“[The candidate] basically gave a pitch and then told me if I put up his poster on my door I wouldn’t be bothered by any other GUSA people,” Quincy said.
Quincy later added that later, another candidate wrote on her white board asking for her support.
It’s been a tight race and there is no telling how today’s election will turn out, even though Feiman captured 34 percent of the vote in Vox Populi’s straw poll of 755 participants. The idiosyncrasies of the instant runoff voting system used in GUSA presidential elections have the potential to change the dynamics of the race because, although Feiman enjoys a plurality, voters’ rankings of other candidates could potentially affect his election chances.
To try to take advantage of the IRV system, Factor and Meaney considered a preference swapping agreement, where both candidates would encourage his supporters to rank the other high on their ballots. However, the two sides ultimately abandoned the idea.
“I think Ace and I would make the best choice for students. At the same time, because of the system, we think that, if it will not be us, Mike and Greg would be great candidates as well,” said James Pickens (COL ’12), who is running with Factor. “We didn’t really have time to make it some kind of formal thing and we liked what we were doing already, which is talking about our ideas.”