Undergraduate Student Government’s campaign season this year is set to be a flurry of chalk, T-shirts and tweets.
An election season after the first unopposed USG campaign in nearly 50 years, the OSU student body will have to choose between the largest cluster of competitors since 2003.
There are set to be six presidential and vice presidential campaigns on the ballot this spring. In 2003, six campaigns also ran, but one — Mike Goodman and Frank Sasso — swept 31.6 percent of the vote, according to the USG Alumni Society website.
This year’s ballot is slated to list:
- Andrew Warnecke, running with Logan Recker
- Celia Wright, running with Leah Lacure
- Current USG Vice President Josh Ahart, running with Jen Tripi
- Mohamad Mohamad, running with Sean Crowe
- Ryan Hedrick, running with Nicole Spaetzel
- Vytas Aukstuolis, running with Nicholas Macek
There are also set to be 104 senatorial candidates running for about 40 spots in the general assembly, said Chief Justice of the Judiciary Panel Tyler Byrum, a fourth-year in engineering physics.
Byrum said his role in the election process is remaining impartial, making sure USG bylaws are being followed and “just generally running the election.”
Campaigning is set to begin Feb. 19 and run until voting is held between March 3 and 5, Byrum said in an email, and a presidential debate is slated for Feb. 25 at the Ohio Union.
Current USG President Taylor Stepp, a fourth-year in public affairs, was the only presidential candidate on the ballot last spring, the first time a candidate had run unopposed since 1966. He was also the first two-term USG president in about 10 years, since Eddie Pauline’s 2001 and 2002 successes.
If Stepp’s vice president, Ahart, a fourth-year in public affairs, were to win this year’s election, he would be the first elected vice president to move up the next year since 2007. That was the year Kate Christobek, who served as vice president while Ryan Fournier was president in 2006, won the presidency.
Ahart, who has been involved with USG since he was a freshman, said he’s enthusiastic about the possibility of moving into the presidency.
“I don’t really think about when’s the last time that happened or historically this or that, but I’m really excited about the election, and if we win, for what we can do next year,” he said.
Ahart also said with six campaign teams, there is an opportunity for greater OSU student engagement.
“Last year we had a lot of unity around Taylor and I as candidates together … I think the organization was more unified around us,” he said. “This year it’s not a bad thing (to have more candidates because) if you think about it we can get out to as many students as possible from every area of the university … which will inevitably increase voter turnout.”
In 2012, when Stepp was elected to his first term, voter turnout was the highest since 1975 with 8,279 votes. The following year, turnout was only about half of that, with 4,027 votes cast.
Some of the other candidates set to vie for the presidency said their experiences are what led them to pursue the position.
Wright, a third-year in public health, said she and Lacure decided to run because they’ve been involved with USG since they were both freshmen.
“Our involvement with USG has revealed to us really the best way to improve it and we’re really passionate about it,” Wright said. She is currently serving as the senior internal affairs director, and Lacure is serving as the deputy chief of staff. Both women also serve on senior staff, which functions as an executive board of USG.
Candidates are not supposed to publicly discuss their policy agendas until after campaigning begins Feb. 19, Byrum said.
Wright said part of the reason she thinks there are more candidates this year is that running against an incumbent president last year might have “frightened” potential competitors away.
“(Stepp) did a pretty good job so I didn’t feel the need to run against him or anything,” Wright said, but she added having more ballot options holds strong advantages for the student body.
“People have lots of options and (will) hold us to a higher standard as candidates,” Wright said. “We have to work really hard to let students know how much we really care … Increased student competition can only help get people more engaged.”
Other candidates, though, plan to capitalize on their lack of experience with OSU’s student government. Warnecke, a third-year in political science, said though he nor Recker are currently involved in USG, he believes they could “bring in a new and fresh way of doing things.”
He said it doesn’t surprise him that there are six teams running this year after last year’s unopposed election.
“I think now we have a rush of candidates who feel it’s wide open. I think they feel it’s anyone’s race to win,” Warnecke said.
At least one campaign team wants to emphasize that it encompasses people who have worked with USG before and people who haven’t. Mohamad, a third-year in chemical engineering and engineering physics, said he and Crowe are running because of that diversity of experience they bring.
“I kind of have the leadership inside USG … he’s got a good amount of leadership outside of USG. Each year, you kind of have either the people from inside USG who are going to be running and they wanna keep things the same, and then you have the people who are kind of opposing USG, kind of trying to reform it, and what we thought is, ‘Well, it’s not a good idea to keep everything the same but it’s also not a good idea to reform everything,” Mohamad said. “(We were) like, you know what, we can make a team that kind of knows the inner workings (of USG) and also is a team that’s kind of from the outside as well to make good change.”
Mohamad was the deputy director in diversity last year and is not officially in USG this year, though he said he has been helping out with IT matters.
Hedrick and Aukstuolis did not respond to an email requesting comment Monday.
Byrum said the variety of teams running bodes well for the coming year.
“It’s great for the future of USG that we have this many candidates that are interested in running,” Byrum said. “We claim to represent all undergraduate students and hopefully by having this many people run, that it will bring in some new ideas as well as reach out and educate some other students who don’t know anything about what USG does.”