Mary Honaker and Carla Gracia on Thursday ended their bid to become the next leaders of Ohio State’s Undergraduate Student Government. Their dropping out of the race came amid allegations of overspending on their campaign and having connections to an apparent nationwide effort from a nonprofit to funnel money into student government races across the U.S.
Neither admitted to wrongdoing, with Honaker, a third-year in international studies, casting the allegations as attacks on her character. Both Honaker and Gracia, a second-year in political science, posted the statements on their Facebook pages on Thursday evening.
“The attacks on my campaign, my team and my character have become too much,” Honaker’s statement read. “I apologize to everyone affected by the end of the Mary and Carla campaign. This university is amazing, and I encourage everyone to do everything in their power to continue to make it great.”
The news of their withdrawal ends a turmoil-tossed week for the campaign, which began after The Lantern reported Tuesday that Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit, was sponsoring their campaign as part of a nationwide effort to get conservatives elected to student government positions, according to leaked text messages and audio detailing conversations with TPUSA staffers.
Then, earlier Thursday, a brief alleging the Honaker and Gracia campaign breached the $4,000 spending limit for USG elections was filed to the Judicial Panel by another USG campaign, that of Stephen Post, a third-year in economics and political science, and his running mate Lauren Todd, a fifth-year in English. They said they obtained their evidence from someone within the Honaker and Gracia campaign who spoke out after the TPUSA connections surfaced.
A slew of resignations followed the filing of Thursday’s brief, with campaign managers and advisers jumping ship from the Honaker and Gracia campaign, making Thursday evening’s withdrawal seemingly imminent.
The campaign denied the TPUSA connections when they arose. The campaign, as well as one of the TPUSA staff members named in leaked text messages and audio, Kennedy Copeland, said TPUSA approached the Honaker and Gracia campaign with an offer but was rebuffed. Questions about the timeline of that rebuffal have gone unanswered by the campaign.
Both the campaign and Copeland have said that TPUSA is instead funding the campaign of brothers Reagan and Reese Brooks, third-years in marketing. Both Copeland and a Honaker and Gracia campaign representative first denied knowledge of any TPUSA connections to the campaign. The Brooks brothers have denied the allegations against them, with a campaign manager calling them “baseless.”
Neither Gracia nor Honaker addressed Thursday’s Judicial Panel filing or the allegations of covering up their alleged overexpenditures in their statements.
Voting is open online from Monday to Wednesday, with three presidential campaigns remaining. Those campaigns are the Post and Todd campaign, the Brooks brothers campaign, and the campaign of Andrew Jackson, a third-year in Spanish and political science, and his running mate Sophie Chang, a third-year environment, economy, development and sustainability.