After much controversy, Student Government announces election winners

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Winning candidate Thor Lund talks on the phone Thursday night after the Student Government results were announced to more than 80 supporters. Lund and his running mate Wills Brown captured the presidency with 2,571 votes over John Lawler’s 2,112.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

Weeks of campaigning, candidate disqualifications and judicial review culminated in a Thursday gathering of more than 80 supporters for Student Government presidential candidates John Lawler and Thor Lund.

Lund and running mate Wills Brown captured the presidency with 2,571 votes, defeating Lawler, who received 2,112. A total of 4,483 students voted.

The campaign period extended from Feb. 15 to March 29, about six weeks compared to the usual two. Voter turnout for the presidential and vice presidential race decreased about 41 percent compared to last year, when 7,883 students voted in the runoff election for current SG president Natalie Butler and former presidential candidate Abel Mulugheta.

In 2010, 8,654 students voted in the presidential runoff, with president-elect Scott Parks receiving 4,801 and opponent Minator Azemi receiving 3,853.

This year is the first time the Election Supervisory Board disqualified two presidential candidates since SG outlawed the ticket system in 2008, in which students could run together under a party or banner that year in order to give each candidate a fair chance at getting elected.

Lund has never been involved in SG and said he is facing a sharp learning curve. While he and Brown started alone at the beginning, Lund said the most challenging part of campaigning was wondering if elections were ever going to happen.

“A lot of people were wondering if we were ever going to have this day,” Lund said. “With each challenge we grow stronger. We’ve come out so much stronger and better after this. It has been a blessing in disguise.”

Lund said he ran a campaign focused on the students and wants to provide 24-hour access to the Perry-Castañeda Library, renovate Anna Hiss Gym and provide healthier late-night food options, among goals. Lund said he and Brown bring a new perspective to SG, and he invites everyone to get involved.

“Don’t be discouraged,” Lund said. “Anyone who wants to get involved, get involved. Me and Wills have no bias against anyone and we’re very excited.”

Lawler said he is surprised at the low voter turnout. He said during the election he did not anticipate Madison Gardner would sue UT, the prolonging of the elections or running with two great candidates like Lund and Brown. Lawler said he is grateful for the students who supported his campaign.

“What would I do differently, I would say not a thing,” Lawler said. “There have been several things that were out of our control, but at the end of the day, Terrence and I are very proud of the issues-based campaign we ran.”

Lawler said he would continue to be involved with SG as much as possible and fulfill his campaign promise to fight for students at UT and in West Campus. He said he would welcome any opportunity to work with Lund and Brown next year.

Former presidential candidate Madison Gardner was disqualified twice, once on Feb. 22 and again on March 21, for violating the SG Election Code. Former candidate Yaman Desai was disqualified on Feb. 20 for misrepresenting his campaign and committing fraud.

Gardner said Monday he expected voter turnout to be low this year because students had not been given the chance to elect their own SG president and vice president because of the disqualifications. With more than 100 campaign volunteers, Gardner had one of the largest campaign teams this year.

Election Supervisory Board chair Eric Nimmer said elections were different this year because there was a functioning Election Code and judicial body to make sure rules and procedure were being carried out.

“In prior years, if something happened the Election Code could not be drawn out,” Nimmer said. “We have a functioning means to [address] bad behavior.”

Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly said she will be working with Lund and Brown during the next few weeks to address changes to the Election Code. The code encountered scrutiny when Gardner filed a lawsuit against the University on Feb. 27, claiming the association provision in the code violated his constitutional rights.

“Every [SG] group is different,” Reagins-Lilly said. “There is a new group of students and they’re learning. They’ll have to rethink and clarify the [Election Code], and I have confidence in the student governing process.”

Printed on Friday, March 30, 2012 as: SG candidate Lund takes presidency