Progress Party sweeps UB Student Association elections
Lowest voter turnout for contested election in at least a decade
The announcement of the Student Association elections results was not as tense as in years past.
While the Progress Party stood together awaiting the predicted announcement of their victory, the Transparency Party jokingly discussed how they would pose when their defeat was announced.
The Progress Party celebrated its sweep of the SA elections in the SA office Thursday night, as all three of its candidates will assume the executive board positions of president, vice president and treasurer next year.
Progress Party’s Matt Rivera and Megan Glander were elected president and vice president, respectively, with nearly 70 percent of the student votes. Rivera and Glander received 813 votes, while their competitors, Maximillian Budynek and Daniel Christian of the Transparency Party, received 377 votes.
With 640 votes, Dan Emmons of Progress was elected treasurer and beat out Carl Ross and Aaron Hussain, who received 388 and 79 votes, respectively, and ran alone.
Just 1,254 students voted during the three-day election – just six percent of all undergraduates and the lowest voter turnout in a contested SA election in at least a decade.
“We’ve been really passionate about this, the whole process,” Rivera said after the victory. “We really wanted it to be something great and we’re excited to jump into the next year.”
The atmosphere of the office was relaxed in the moments leading up to the announcement from Elections and Credentials Chair Anthony Field, as all seemed to expect Progress Party’s sweep over the independent treasurer candidates and the Transparency Party that had no prior SA experience. Transparency even offered to concede the race with about an hour left in campaigning Thursday, but Progress declined.
After announcing the number of votes each candidate received, Field accidentally began to declare Transparency the winners, which resulted in laughter from both parties and Field quickly correcting himself.
All three Progress Party candidates have SA experience. Rivera is currently SA’s director of Student Affairs, Glander oversees approximately 60 clubs as the Special Interest, Services and Hobbies (SISH) Council coordinator and Emmons is a bookkeeper in SA’s finance department.
Progress campaigned about bringing more inclusion and advocacy to SA and look forward to doing so now that they’re elected.
“In the past year, we’ve seen SA make the jump toward advocacy, so we want to start pushing advocacy for the student body,” Rivera said.
When Glander told Rivera over winter break that she wanted to run for vice president, Rivera decided he wanted to run for president. They came together and decided to look for a treasurer, which ended up being Emmons.
“It took some soul searching, but we got there and we honestly couldn’t be happier,” Rivera said.
After hearing that her party had won Thursday night, Glander teared up a little. She said her party has had a long and tiring week of campaigning, but they’re ready to get to work on their platform goals “now, tomorrow, [and] always.”
Budynek and Christian ran on a campaign advocating for transparency of SA, which controls $4 million of student funds collected through the mandatory student activity fee. They admitted they expected defeat as the week went on. Christian said although the election wasn’t necessarily close, “it also wasn’t as far away as it seemed.”
“We think there’s still a large student population that resonated with what we had to say,” Christian, who ran for vice president, said.
When asked if students outside of SA could ever realistically win an election with the way the system is currently set up, Budynek said “never.”
Budynek and Christian would like to see SA advertise the elections more as opposed to “bury[ing] it,” give the candidates more time to campaign and allow more forums for candidates to get their message out.
They said many of the students they spoke with in the Student Union this week did not know elections were occurring, and Christian called this year’s candidate debate “lackluster,” as it was not heavily publicized, held in the Student Union lobby which made it difficult to hear the candidates speak, and was sparsely attended.
“There are a lot of restrictions that prevent people, who are coming from the outside who don’t have this solid base of people who trust them already, to gain ground,” Budynek, who ran for president, said.
Ross also said even though there was a “great turnout,” he wishes the elections were advertised more.
This is the second year in a row there were not two parties with SA experience running for president and vice president. The Clarity Party, which had no SA experience, dropped out of the race last year before the polls ever opened.
“The Student Association is filled with ambitious, well qualified people, so it’s almost an amazement to me that we don’t have more ambitious, well qualified candidates coming out of it,” Christian said.
Both Ross and the Transparency Party hope to make change despite losing the election. Hussain was not present at the announcement and could not immediately be reached for comment.
“At the end of the day we’re not done yet. We identified real issues and we’re going to continue doing whatever it takes to address them,” Budynek said. “If that means we take opportunities elsewhere to work on it, we’ll take advantage of it.”
All of the candidates however agreed the race was amicable compared to years past, with Ross calling the campaign “civilized.”
Candidates in prior years have alleged campaigning violations on the floor of the Student Union and even admitted to telling each other to “go [expletive]” themselves, but this year had no major incident or controversies. The Progress and Transparency president and vice president candidates even held hands in a circle after the results were announced.
Although Budynek and Christian said Progress Party are deserving and qualified candidates that will “do a great job,” Budynek said the two parties did not see “eye-to-eye.”
“I think they saw different issues on campus than we did,” Budynek said. “They have their ideas of how they’re gonna fix it but we do not agree with them on what needs to be done directly for the student body.”
Despite the low voter turnout, it was still a major increase over last year’s uncontested election that drew just 217 students to the polls. Current SA President Minahil Khan, who won that uncontested election with the Unity Party, said it’s important students take an active role in who they vote for.
“I’m happy that we had a significant increase from last year and I hope we continue to see this trend grow,” she said.
As for the winning party, Glander said she would like to learn more about the different councils beyond the SISH club interactions she has made over the years. She plans to work with current SA Vice President Sean Kaczmarek to better understand the internal workings and policies of SA.
“I don’t feel like the transition will be too bad. It’s just a lot of listening and learning and working on things together,” Glander said.
Rivera said he plans to continue an open discussion with students during Progress Party’s time in office.
“I think you’re going to see us a lot more,” Rivera said. “We want to interact with the student body a lot more than SA previously has.”
Tom Dinki contributed reporting.