Student Senate Elections: Late presidential write-in joins race

Chris Wagner

A campaign clouded with negative campaigning and personal attacks just got even messier — only two days before voters hit the polls.

Junior Christopher Wagner told The Post yesterday he has launched a write-in campaign for Student Senate president, taking on FACE candidate Matthew Wallace and RSVP candidate Kyle Triplett.

Wagner says he knows his chances of being elected are slim but added he hopes his candidacy brings the race back to issues rather than politics.

“The negative campaigning is completely out of control,” Wagner said. “It’s completely out of control.”

Wagner said he would not spend a single dollar on his two-day campaign, adding that he sees himself as a statement candidate. He added that, in the midst of a tough budget climate, the university’s finances have barely been a campaign issue.

“Both parties have touched on the potential tuition hikes, both have touched on the potentially devastating budget cuts, but neither has really focused on the budget — which should be the central issue,” Wagner said.

Few specifications exist in Student Senate’s election rules regarding write-in candidates.

Although he’s no newcomer to Student Senate politics, having been elected to Senate twice, Wagner describes his chances of winning as “slim.”

The announcement of Wagner’s candidacy blindsided both Wallace and Triplett. Both praised Wagner as an ideal Student Senate member.

Wagner was widely seen as a favorite to succeed current Student Senate President Jesse Neader, but before the campaign officially began, Wagner publically announced he would not seek office.

Currently the Honors Tutorial College senator, Wagner served last year as an East Green senator.

Wagner said he played a prominent role in constructing the RSVP ticket but pulled out of the race — effectively handing the ticket to Triplett.

“I realized that I had let the ticket slip away from me,” Wagner said. “Some of the people I had planned on running with weren’t in it for the students; they were in it to get themselves elected.”

Though shocked to hear of Wagner’s candidacy, Triplett and RSVP treasurer  candidate Chris Wimsatt said they welcome him to the race and praised his current work on senate.

“We’re surprised that he decided to do this,” Triplett said. “But he’s dedicated to senate and to the students.”

Wimsatt added he’s glad the write-in process is being utilized, saying Wagner is an ideal Student Senate member.

“He doesn’t just fit the bill, he defines it,” he said.

FACE presidential candidate Wallace was equally surprised by the news, but welcomed Wagner to the race.

“I just wish it wasn’t president he was running for, because otherwise I’d help him campaign,” Wallace said.

Wagner said another major factor in his decision to run was a conversation he had with one campaign manager for the RSVP ticket.

“There are definitely repercussions to this decision,” Wager said, adding he was told by someone associated with the RSVP ticket that if he refused to publically endorse the ticket, he would be kept out of a commissioner job on senate next year.

“It’s the same kind of cronyism FACE is campaigning against, and when I rose those concerns, I was told, ‘That’s just the way it is,’” he said.

Wimsatt and Triplett both insisted yesterday that no one from their party should have made such a declaration, adding that Wagner would be a prime candidate for a senate appointment.

“We’ve discouraged that kind of language and discussion,” Wimsatt said.
Wallace said he’s talked to Wagner about a possible senate appointment next year.

“We’ve talked about him possibly serving as intern director,” Wallace said. “There is definitely a place for him in any administration I run.”

All three current Student Senate executives praised Wagner as a valuable senate member but said they would not be withdrawing their endorsements of RSVP.

“I really like Chris, but I think what Kyle has that Chris doesn’t is there are people running with him that vetted him and will keep him in line,” Neader said. “I won’t be changing my endorsement.”

Senate Treasurer Patty Roberts said Wagner is one of the most qualified and thoughtful members of senate, even though she won’t be changing her endorsement.

Vice President Matt Beddingfield gave Wagner the most praise, adding his endorsement was of RSVP as a whole, and not specifically of Triplett for president.

“I think (Wagner) would do a great job,” Beddingfield said.

Also intrigued by Wagner’s last-minute announcement was former Student Senate President Robert Leary, who originally brought Wagner to senate on the iOU ticket two years ago.

“I think he would bring a lot to the position,” Leary said.

Leary added that, in order to have any chance to win, Wagner would need endorsements and mass exposure.

“I can’t remember any write-in candidates who have won,” he said.

Student Senate election polls open tomorrow and voting lasts until Thursday.

—Joe Fox contributed to this report


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