Wednesday, January 22

Success of independent candidates in USAC election marks shift from slate-dominated council

Independent candidate Lana Habib El-Farra celebrates winning the position of external vice president in the undergraduate student elections on Thursday night.

Erin Ng

Victories gained by independents in last week’s undergraduate student government election marked a nominal shift from previous years, when candidates not affiliated with a slate rarely won council seats.

Independent Lana Habib El-Farra was elected external vice president of the Undergraduate Students Association Council with 59 percent of the vote, while independent Taylor Mason was elected Cultural Affairs commissioner with 68 percent of the vote ““ both solid victories.

Taylor Bazley, the third independent candidate running for a contested position, did not win a seat. But he garnered 46 percent of the vote to Bruins United candidate Sahil Seth’s 54 percent.

El-Farra and Mason both were part of the Students First! slate last year, and were also both in-house candidates. After Students First! chose not to run a slate, El-Farra and Mason teamed up to run a joint campaign. They both had experience working for USAC offices, and could support each other by pooling together resources, Mason said.

Both had positive things to say about running independently.

“Running as independents allowed us to highlight our in-house experience, our personalities and the work our offices have done, rather than an entire slate ideology,” El-Farra said.

Both El-Farra and Mason said the status helped them receive student support because they were not limited to specific slates or the student groups that support those slates.

Seth, who defeated Bazley to be elected Financial Supports commissioner, said he thought students voted for independents to avoid having a council dominated by Bruins United.

“I think there’s a strong sentiment that you don’t necessarily want people all from one side,” Seth said.

He attributed El-Farra’s and Mason’s victories to their in-house experience and backing from student groups that supported Students First! in the past.

Some students said El-Farra and Mason’s previous affiliation with Students First! did not qualify them as entirely independent candidates.

Fourth-year anthropology student Stephanie Smith voted for Bruins United candidates. Smith said she thought El-Farra and Mason were not really independent, since they received much of their support from people who had supported Students First! in the past.

But first-year biology student Eric Marquez said he voted for El-Farra and Mason because he thought they were experienced candidates.

“It did not apply (to me) whether they had a slate or not,” Marquez said.

Marquez said that what mattered in choosing a candidate was their qualifications, not their political affiliations.

Unlike El-Farra and Mason, who had previously been affiliated with Students First!, Bazley ran by himself and was never part of any political slate.

Bazley said he thinks many students voted for him because he was an independent and they believed in his platform, but added that some students likely chose him to avoid voting for Bruins United candidates.

“A lot of people did vote for me because I was an alternative to Bruins United,” Bazley said. “I was the only alternative (for that position).”

Bruins United took seven uncontested spots out of the 13 USAC positions in this year’s election, including the office of the president. But during campaigning, some concerns were expressed by members of the campus community about the possibility of a council being composed mostly of one slate.

“I guess a lot of people didn’t want the whole (council) dominated by Bruins United this year,” said first-year business economics student and Bruins United supporter Ahmed Hammady. “I felt like there was a pretty strong opposition.”

Bazley said he thought students were likely driven to vote independent by anti-Bruins United sentiments that were formed after inaccurate endorsements of student groups by Bruins United were brought to light by the Daily Bruin during election week. Bruins United representatives submitted endorsements for student groups UCLA Circle K and MoneyThink UCLA without the groups’ authorization.

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