SGA candidates reflect on election week and anticipate results

Adrian Broaddus, Web Editor

It’s five in the morning and Carlos Chavira’s alarm buzzes to start the day. Although he usually wakes up after 9 a.m. each day for school, this particular week the Student Government Association elections demand that he gets to school early and stay as long as he can.

Seven o’clock in the morning rolls around and Chavira, who is running as a senator-at large, treks out to campus to catch students and explain his platform. For his first time campaigning for a SGA officer position, he chose to run alongside the Marvel party candidates and compete for a spot.

During election week, Chavira traveled from classroom to classroom and spoke in front of the class to pitch why he should be elected.

Now that the campaigning process is over and all votes have been cast, Chavira, along with the 49 other members running for executive or senatorial positions for SGA, will have to play the waiting game to find out who will be elected.

“This past week campaigning was one of the most physically straining experiences I’ve ever gone through,” Chavira said. “At the beginning there’s a social barrier that you have to overcome, and it’s stressful to go up to a random individual and talk to them about your platforms. After a while, it becomes second nature talking to them.”

For the 2017 SGA elections, there are three different groups with their own candidates, Marvel, Boost and Independents. The two parties, Marvel and Boost, put like-minded candidates together for spots in both president and vice-president, and senatorial offices.

Marvel is focusing their movement toward educating students about their rights, specifically for undocumented students, and clearing up any transparency issues for the students by connecting the students with SGA.

On the other hand, the members of Boost are striving for more transportation for students coming across the border, improving budget allocations, solar panels in common areas and making designated rest areas for students.

Then the independent candidates come into play. These individuals chose not to affiliate themselves with a party by running a solo campaign, and each have their own respective motives and platforms.

“The importance of a party system basically only helps you when you run because once you join SGA, there are no political affiliations and you feel like a team,” said Celeste Acevedo, a senior communication major, who is currently a senator-at-large.  “Execs only put a party together to join like-minded people together so they can hopefully one day work together in SGA. They also want those people under them to campaign on their behalf. If you are in a party, you are more likely to hear one of the 15 senate members than the three exec members. Those votes will go towards them.”

Acevedo, who is not running for a position this year, believes that there is a big divide amongst the structure currently in SGA and the organization needs proper ruling and order.

The current SGA president, Sergio Baltazar, has been criticized by some in his current board for how he ran his presidency. Baltazar, who is running again for president under Boost, was publicly criticized during the presidential debate and through social media for his lack of action toward the ideas he promised last year.

“I feel like the discrepancies from President Baltazar and the whole Student Government Association has not really been affecting his campaign,” Acevedo said. “He isn’t running on the terms that he is having problems.”

Acevedo said the one thing that could have affected Baltazar more than it did was negatively attacking the chair of appropriations, Esber Aboud, during his administration.

“At SGA, he was confronted about this and questioned, ‘as a leader, how could you say that we’re a team for the entire year, and for the sole benefit of his new campaign discredit an entire committee in your administration?’ At first, he didn’t know what to say, but he followed it up with how he wants to help the student body and grow in that sense. He said sorry to us, but it ruined the morale of the team.”

Last year, Baltazar ran on developmental ideas, such as bringing nap stations to the campus, shade stations and transportations for students crossing the border. Although some of the projects are taking longer to develop than he had planned, he knew the high scale of projects that were at hand and stayed determined to proceed with the ideas.

“I tried explaining to everyone that these projects can’t be done in a year,” Baltazar said. “I mentioned that when I got elected last year. I told my whole exec board and senators, ‘the only one who created the Earth in one day was God.’”

Along with his projects not going into action, the executive board and appropriations committee has negatively evaluated Baltazar’s choice of budget.

Each year, the appropriation committee is given $80,000 to give out to students and organizations that submit a bill to obtain funding. As president, Baltazar is given $8,000 to utilize wherever he may please. Currently, Baltazar has a negative balance of about $750.

Baltazar said that he simply wanted to allocate money to organizations that he felt were not given the fair amount of money through appropriations.

“SGA always tells everyone submitting a bill to maximize the most they can ask for, but that’s not fair because they only get a percentage of what they ask for,” Baltazar said. “I told everyone, God didn’t put the guidelines that are there, so we can change them. We can properly spend the money that the students need. Somehow it’s unfair when they pin it on me. It’s not like I’m stealing money from SGA. Ever since I started my presidency, I wanted to cut back on the expenses that went towards us, like buying polos or business cards. That was the purpose—to give back to the students.”

He ran last year as an independent candidate, but this time around he believes that the party system has helped his platform.

“I’m running again because I care for the students a lot,” he said. “Last time, I ran as an independent and going in without a team was definitely a challenge. I liked the way we finished our projects at the end. But running with this party has been great because we have a team of people who are very excited about SGA and making it run with all the ideas and projects we have. I want to continue to work on the platforms that I promised. Even if I don’t get it, I will still work on all the projects that I promised.”

Chavira and Acevedo both agree that some of the ideas that are being broadcast have been more radical than candidates should be campaigning for.

“People who are in SGA have the knowledge of what we do have control over and what we don’t have control over, but some individuals in both parties ran on a platform of implementing more solar panels. I talked to them and tried to explain that El Paso is currently taxing solar energy extra hard,” Acevedo said. “They’re kind of unaffordable and we don’t currently have a budget for that right now. I would say that people who have been through SGA have more knowledge of what we can do.”

Chavira also agrees about some of the far-fetched ideas some candidates are trying to implement.

“I would say I’m more of a realist,” Chavira said. “My platform is a very simple platform, but also very effective. Some members from different parties are promising students the world. At the end of the day, truth is, there’s a lot of obstacles that need to be overcome. There’s big projects that are very far out there. I don’t think it’s impossible, but it’ll be very difficult for a lot of these plans to go into effect.”

There has been a lot of tension between the officers in SGA, according to Chavira, and he thinks that this elections term could be a make-or-break situation for SGA.

“Tensions have been pretty high right now—not only between the two parties running against each other, but also in SGA itself between the president and the senate,” he said. “They don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. It has definitely caused a lot of tension and I can see why there are transparency issues.”

However, Cristian Botello, a sophomore communication studies major who is running as an independent candidate for the senator at-large position, does not think that SGA is currently going through transparency issues; rather, he thinks that it has been a growing distance between the students and SGA.

“For me, it’s not the lack of transparency, but the lack of student engagement, which actually falls back on us,” Botello said. “It’s not that SGA is bad right now. There are things that SGA can improve on, but overall most of the senators and exec members have done what they need to do.”

Now, the elections committee is tasked to review filed sanctions, which are petitions that could rule out a candidate or votes because they violated rules. After the elections committee is done reviewing these sanctions, SGA will announce the winners. They believe that the winners will be announced later this week.