Mark Batke / Lantern reporter
While there will only be one presidential campaign listed on the Undergraduate Student Government ballot, at least one pair of Ohio State students is challenging the single choice for office.
Jacob Coate, a second-year in political science from Westerville, Ohio, decided to start a campaign to run against incumbent USG President Taylor Stepp less than a week before voting begins. Neither Coate nor his running mate James Prather, a second-year in finance from Chicago, is a current USG member.
“Someone should be running against (Stepp),” Coate said. “We’re obviously not politicians, we’re obviously not USG, but the support (of our campaign) has been overwhelming.”
The decision to launch the last-minute campaign came when Coate was informed on the evening of Feb. 19 that Stepp was running for re-election unopposed.
“I was getting frustrated, because all year long we don’t hear from (Stepp), and then all of a sudden, he’s asking us to vote for him,” Coate said.
After contacting Prather to serve as his running mate, the fellow residents of Nosker House on North Campus began to piece together a campaign. Coate said there are about 20 students working for his campaign.
“Immediately, a huge campaign got started – I didn’t have to ask anyone. Everyone just volunteered,” Coate said.
Having no affiliation with USG, Coate said his campaign is more relatable to students.
“Every year, it seems like people have to make this kind of apathetic choice between two politicians they don’t know … people tend to vote for whoever is giving out the flashiest T-shirt instead of actually what people stand for,” Coate said. “I think the only qualification (for this office) that you need is an ability to listen to people, a willingness to represent people, a willingness to come before the people, and that’s the main thing our campaign has been based on.”
According to the pair, placing an emphasis on USG’s engagement with students outside of Senate and assembly members will lead to more representative university decisions being made.
“We’re very good at collaborating with people … we no longer want it to be an organization where only a select few people can even have their input,” Prather said. “It’s imperative that we have the entire university involved in what decisions are made.”
Coate highlighted a three-point plan he and Prather are promising to OSU students if elected. The plan addresses intentions to visit on-campus residence halls weekly to gauge input from students, working with campus officials to improve dining plan options and making graduation more attainable for students.
“I think USG needs to be allocating more funds into hiring more advisers, and to be able to smooth over the advising process so that students are in and out and can really graduate on the timeline that they choose,” Coate said.
In regards to the current state of USG, Coate said the positions of president and vice president are “historically unrepresentative.”
“(Prather and I) don’t have strong stances on things … we’re not super-partisan. We’re not coming in saying that it has to be ‘this way or the highway.’ We are super pragmatic people,” Coate said.
It is the same demeanor that Coate and Prather said makes them different types of leaders than Stepp and running mate Josh Ahart. Coate said there have been several current USG members working on Stepp’s campaign who have approached Coate with intentions to switch sides, but Coate did not disclose any specific names.
Coate said his campaign is getting attention, and said he has seen a noticeable difference in Stepp’s campaign, but Stepp refuted that claim.
“We have had the exact same plan for our campaign since day one. We have not changed anything due to any write-in candidacy,” Stepp said.
Coate and Prather are running as write-in candidates, meaning voters will have to write their names on the ballot. Any student is permitted to run as a write-in candidate.
Students will be allowed to cast ballots for USG president between noon on Wednesday and 11:59 p.m. on Friday.