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Questions raised about fairness of student elections

The election of a president, vice president and 10 senators from The Connection slate has raised questions of fair campaigning and the future of ASUNM.

Sen. Tim Serna, former presidential candidate on The People slate, said he and his running mates were in the Student Services Center watching the Election Commission tally votes when they heard they had lost.

“It was almost a relief because it was over, but I can’t say we were happy about it,” he said.

Serna said rumors and comments about The People slate contributed to The Connection’s sweep. He said members of the other slate made unfounded comments about what the The People slate stands for and what it wanted to do.

He added that an e-mail from the Progressive Student Alliance said something about stopping the Greek and athlete reign in ASUNM and could have contributed to the slate’s loss, though The People did not have a part in creating the message.

Serna said The People slate has an ex-athlete and many who are Greek or plan to pledge to a fraternity or sorority. He said he spoke with athletes and others during election day to explain that he and the slate are not against them.

“People were believing what they were told, and it was hard to negate that,” he said.

Chaz Lacy-Mart°nez, elections chairperson for ASUNM, said the campaigning from both sides was clean and fair — probably because many of the candidates were already senators.

“There was a mutual respect for each other,” he said.

Lacy-Mart°nez said he voted for candidates on both sides and was surprised by The Connection’s sweep.

“I was expecting a much closer race,” he said.

He said some supporters of The People slate offended students by asking racially-biased questions at the ASUNM candidate forum, which could have affected the slate’s election results. He said that though the supporters’ concerns are valid, he was offended when someone said the elections were run by white males. Lacy-Mart°nez said he is part Hispanic and the rest of the commission is racially diverse.

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He added that the forum got a bit off track.

“The forum is not a time of student opinion,” he said. “It’s more of a time to understand what the candidates’ issues are and what their concerns are and that’s not what happened.”

Serna said members of The Coalition who asked questions at the forum were trying to get candidates to respond to racial issues that people are afraid to address on campus. He said someone asked Senator-elect Nick Huffmyer of The Connection slate how he would address racism on campus, and he answered by saying every campus has racism.

Serna said Huffmyer’s answer, as well as others from members of The Connection, illustrated why the questions were asked.

Huffmyer could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Serna had no comment about why The People slate did not contest the election, but said his personal relationship with members of The Connection may suffer because they made verbal agreements to keep their campaigns clean and ethical. Serna said he kept his end of the deal by not bad-mouthing anyone and will still be able to work with members of The Connection slate on a professional level, regardless of how he feels about them personally. He said he does not resent the entire slate and is happy that Grant Nichols was re-elected as a senator.

Lacy-Mart°nez said he was surprised that no one contested the election results because it has been normal to do so in past years. He said members of both slates complained about each other and participated in heated discussions on election day. When he investigated the reports, Lacy-Mart°nez said, he never observed any violations and could not fine candidates for breaking rules.

Serna said The People slate does not function as a collective consciousness and that many of its members disagree.

“We’re diverse not only in color but in thinking — life experiences,” he said.

Sen. Steve Aguilar, vice-president-elect from The Connection slate, said he will not comment until he speaks with Serna.

Serna said members of The People slate will continue to fill six to seven Senate seats, depending on who replaces the vacancies left by Senators Andrea Gunderson and Da Vonda Bowens. He said members of The People slate will attend Senate meetings even though they were not elected.

Serna said he is worried about how The Connection’s sweep will affect decision making and the future of ASUNM.

“I’m afraid,” he said. “I’m just really afraid.”

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