Wednesday, October 16

Houston defeats McCory in tight finish


Praxis slate wins all general representative spots for council majority

By George Fujii

Daily Bruin Staff

Breaking the five-year Praxis/Students First! presidential
monopoly, Elizabeth Houston was declared the next president of the
Undergraduate Students Association Council late Thursday night.

Houston, an independent, defeated Katynja McCory, the Praxis
candidate and one of this year’s general representatives, by
127 votes, gaining 51 percent of the vote, compared to
McCory’s 49 percent. The total turnout was 24.66 percent,
which was higher than last week’s primary.

Ryan Bulatao, Cheryl Marie Lott and Elisa Sequeira of the Praxis
slate were declared the new USAC general representatives, defeating
independent candidates Katrina Eiland and Kendra Striegler. Noah
Bookman, who was listed on the ballot withdrew from the race
Sunday.

Next year’s council will include a Praxis majority, with
eight members, and five independents. It will be the first time
since 1995 that a Praxis (and its predecessor Students First!)
member will not be president.

“I feel great,” Houston said. “People really
believed my platform. I will approach the situation with as much
diplomacy as possible.”

The USAC president leads the council and nominates appointees to
several important groups, including the Associated Students of UCLA
Board of Directors, the USAC Judicial Board and the USAC Budget
Review and Finance committees.

McCory said her loss does not mean the end of her political
activism or of Praxis, which consists of members of the African
Student Union, Samahang Pilipino, La Familia, Raza Women and other
student groups.

“I’m feeling stronger than before,” McCory
said. “I’m feeling extremely encouraged and hopeful
because I know all these people gathered around here are ready for
the fight ahead of us. This is just the beginning of the
fight.”

For many, though, the fights that Praxis has carried out over
the past years have alienated them from student government.

Ramzi Ajami, the on-campus relations commissioner for the On
Campus Housing Council (which endorsed Houston) and an unsuccessful
internal vice presidential candidate on the Viable Alternative
slate, said Praxis lost because it is divisive.

“Praxis seems to shut out other groups outside their
immediate circle, and students have a problem with that,”
Ajami said. “I’m pretty satisfied with the (election)
result.”

Lott said McCory lost, in part, because Houston misled students
with false promises and because Praxis did not effectively
campaign. She added that Houston is only one voice on the
council.

“There’s eight of us, our opinions … will always
count,” Lott said. “(The president is) important, but
it’s still one position. Every appointment has to be approved
by us.”

Some current council members predicted difficulties for the new
council.

“Houston’s getting herself into something she
can’t handle,” said Ramon Richardson, the current USAC
internal vice president and a Praxis member. “It will be a
tough year for her.”

But Houston said it was too soon to judge her record in
office.

“I may be new to the council, but that doesn’t mean
I’m incapable of being a good leader or a good
president,” Houston said.

She added that she plans to put aside election rhetoric and work
with all members of the council.

“There’s a lot I need to learn, there are a lot of
people I need to work with,” Houston said.

Praxis members were visibly disappointed Thursday night,
shifting from elation after the general representative results were
announced, to tears and silence after Houston’s victory.

McCory, though, emphasized the positive aspect of the
night’s results.

“We ain’t out, they wish they could take us out like
this, but it ain’t that easy,” she said to the
crowd.

Bulatao said McCory’s loss dampened the Praxis sweep of
the general representative positions.

“I’m feeling a little down because I was really
pushing for Katynja,” Bulatao said. “I’ve learned
so much from her, she’s been like another professor to
me.”

Bulatao said he hopes all the council members can share their
experience and build a common ground.

“I don’t want to create any problems,” he
said.

Houston’s victory was welcomed by members of the
Interfraternity Council, which currently has a suit before the USAC
Judicial Board alleging that it was unfairly funded this year.

Jake Heath, IFC internal vice president, said Houston’s
election is a step in the right direction.

“It just helps us along,” Heath said. “It will
mix up council, and force it to look at other points of
view.”

Dave Ehrenberg, IFC external vice president and a potential
presidential candidate next year, worked with Houston’s
campaign. He said Thursday night signals a change for USAC.

“It’s the beginning of a new era of equality ““
inclusive of everyone, thinking of students first,” Ehrenberg
said. “

Praxis members said the diversity of next year’s council
will be a challenge for everyone.

“It’s going to be a learning process for all of
us,” Sequeira said. “We have to find a way to do
that.”

Despite emotions of the evening and the passions of the
campaign, some members on both sides extended conciliatory
gestures.

Eiland and Striegler said they both plan to work within USAC
next year.

“They have been so incredibly receptive to us, it’s
amazing,” Striegler said. “They have a lot to offer as
we have to offer them.”

Also after current USAC President Mike de la Rocha blocked
Houston from consoling McCory, Vanessa Chavez, a third-year
political science student and Praxis member hugged Houston,
instead.

“We’re in office with her; we have different
priorities, that’s the only difference that separates
us,” Chavez said. “Whether we’re gonna enjoy it
… that’s irrelevant.”

De la Rocha said he prevented Houston from reaching McCory
because he said he wanted McCory to have time to reflect on the
loss.

“Elizabeth needs to understand what her position
is,” de la Rocha said. “She doesn’t understand
student of color issues or she wouldn’t have come
in.”

De la Rocha also reminded Houston that she has no vote on the
council, unless a tie occurs.

“She’s the minority, regardless if she’s the
president,” de la Rocha said. “USAC has a history of
inexperienced people who failed to get the job done.”

Bulatao said Praxis would learn from its mixed election
results.

“Sometimes we don’t get everything we want,”
Bulatao said. “We have to work with what we have.”

The high turnout for the runoff election was not a complete
surprise to election officials.

“This year the presidential and general representative
races were extremely competitive,” said Nicole Lynch, chair
of the Election Board.

Although Houston was surprised at her victory, she said she knew
many students wanted to elect someone with a fresh perspective.

“I didn’t think I was going to win,” Houston
said. “The reason I won is that people really wanted to see a
change in student government.”

With reports from Lawrence Ferchaw, Andy Shah and Linh Tat,
Daily Bruin Senior Staff.

USAC ELECTION RESULTS

 

Total number of votes cast: 5,784

Percentage of students who voted: 24.66%

PRESIDENT Elizabeth Houston 51.14% Katynja McCory 48.86% GENERAL
REPRESENTATIVES Katrina Eiland 16.57% Ryan Bulatao 21.94% Cheryl
Marie Lott 19.31% Elisa Sequeira 19.84% Noah Bookman (withdrew)
6.11% Kendra Streigler 16.23% SOURCE: USAC Election Board Original
graphic by HARSHA RAO/Daily Bruin Senior Staff Web adaptation by
CHRISTINE TAN

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