Following the withdrawal of Mary Honaker and Carla Gracia from the Undergraduate Student Government presidential race just four days prior to the start of elections, the fate of their senatorial slate was left hanging in the balance.
Despite the time constraints, 18 of the 30 senatorial candidates have formed a coalition, Rise Above, to run independently for USG offices.
“We were allowed to make a group if we wanted, but it was kind of a no-brainer for everyone,” said Brooke Bowerman, candidate for South Campus senator and a second-year in political science and English. “No one was just going to run by themselves, we all felt so strongly for the causes we were all for, so it was the obvious option to make a senator coalition.”
Brett Wedding, candidate for off-campus senator and a first-year in architecture, said the coalition members’ ability to retain their candidacy in light of alleged fundraising violations by the Honaker and Grace campaign was owed largely in part to the other campaigns.
“We owe a lot of credit to the other campaigns,” Wedding said. “When they filed the brief against (Honaker and Gracia), they explicitly made points in the brief that said, ‘Leave the senators alone.’”
Honaker and Gracia withdrew their candidacy for president and vice president, respectively, following a brief filed to USG’s Judicial Panel alleging they had breached the $4,000 spending cap for USG campaigns. In a brief filed by Matt Barnett, a fourth-year in finance and campaign manager to candidates Stephen Post and Lauren Todd, Honaker and Gracia were named the sole defendants.
The brief followed a Lantern report connecting Honaker and Gracia with a nationwide campaign-financing effort from conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA. Honaker and Gracia have denied wrongdoing in both cases.
“The senators running on the Honaker slate were victims in their own right; they were the victims of a serious and malignant falsehood and they should not be held responsible for the disgraceful actions of Honaker and Gracia,” the brief stated.
Wedding said the senators had no knowledge of the alleged overspending.
“We really didn’t know what was going on before, obviously as soon as we found that out we made ourselves independent and distanced ourselves from that,” Wedding said.
The main difference between senators running independently versus on a slate tied to a presidential campaign is fundraising, said Tyler Giacalone, candidate for public affairs senator and second-year in public affairs in sociology.
“We are each at 100 (dollars) for each of us individually,” Giacalone said. “A slate will have up to $4,000 collectively so it helps a lot with bulk purchases and resources.”
Wedding said the effort the senators have put into running independently is a testament to their commitment to their policy.
“I think if anything, it almost benefitted us in that it put us back in the right direction, it kind of made it more clear as to why we were running which is because we care so much about our policy,” he said.
Policy points for the senators include a renewed focus in sustainability and campus safety, Giacalone said.
“We all agree with all of our policy and we love it, but what I think is great is that each of us have something that really hits home for them,” said Giacalone.
Giacalone added campus safety is a particularly important issue for both him and Bowerman, citing their plan to supplement OSU’s Safe Ride program with companies such as Uber and Lyft to help accommodate a larger number of students.
“Between 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. we are going to pair with (Safe Ride) so if you call and they don’t have a ride available, you will be forwarded to an Uber or a Lyft,” Bowerman said. “If you’re within 3 miles of campus you will get a ride safely.”
In addition to campus safety, Wedding said he intends to implement several new policies toward sustainability if elected.
Wedding said he has been working with Food Network USA to donate extra food from the Greek Life houses to a soup kitchen on East 9th and Indianola avenues, a policy he hopes to expand in the future.
“I want to make our off-campus life a little more sustainable, whether it be through food donation, recycling, lights, water saving, etc.,” Wedding said. “I really want to continue the work (with Food Network USA) and get it passed through (General Assembly) as official OSU policy.”
Wedding said that while the dissolution of their slate was trying, the coalition remains positive, viewing the “extenuating circumstances” as an opportunity to focus further on their policy.
“(A presidential campaign) is kind of self-promotional where as this is much more group-oriented,” he said. “It’s almost more like friends trying to support each other knowing and recognizing that we all care so much about this school.”
Elections open Monday at noon and continue until Wednesday at midnight.