SG candidates drop lawsuit after being reinstated

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Student Government presidential candidates Madison Gardner, right, and Antonio Guevara smile after talking to supporters Monday evening.

Photo Credit: Shannon Kintner | Daily Texan Staff

The University reinstated formerly disqualified candidates Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara as Student Government executive alliance candidates Monday. Gardner dropped his lawsuit against UT after the reinstatement.

Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly released a statement Monday stating that her office has suspended the association clause in the SG Election Code and will review it in the coming months. Reagins-Lilly said the decision to reinstate Gardner and Guevara was made based upon advice from the Texas Attorney General’s Office. She said the Office of the Dean of Students will work with SG in the coming months to clarify the association clause that disqualified Gardner and Guevara.

The UT Student Government presidential elections will occur next week on March 28 and 29 with three candidates on the ballot — John Lawler, Thor Lund and Madison Gardner.

The Election Supervisory Board and the SG Judicial Court disqualified Gardner and Guevara on Feb. 22 for associating their campaign with Carissa Kelley, a candidate for a position within the University Unions, via promotional materials such as their fliers, videos and website. The Election Code states no association between candidates of any kind will be tolerated and violation of the provision can result in a disqualification.

Gardner said he was excited to hear he and Guevara were back in the race and said he dropped the lawsuit because his campaign was reinstated and the association clause was suspended.

“I think it will be tough moving forward because whenever we go speak or campaign the first thing people are going to think is, ‘Oh, they’re the ones that filed a lawsuit,’” Gardner said. “But we just want to be positive, tell our story to as many students as possible.”

Gardner said if elected he will review the Election Code and the entities who review the Election Code. He and Guevara began campaigning Monday evening at the Chi Omega sorority house to solicit volunteer support for the next few days. More than 100 members of the Chi Omega greeted the pair with cheers upon their arrival.

Eric Nimmer, Election Supervisory Board chair, said although the association clause has been suspended in the Gardner case, it does not mean the rule is unconstitutional or that the Board will disregard it. He said the Board was not aware Gardner was concerned his first amendment rights were being violated when it disqualified him because he did not mention it at his hearing.

“As far as every entity that is student run is concerned, [no association between candidates] is still a good rule,” Nimmer said. “It is a good rule until someone tells us differently, which no one has.”

Nimmer said if there are other cases of association between candidates in the next few days the Board will review it again and take subsequent actions as required by the Election Code. Nimmer said he does not know what Gardner’s reinstatement means for future elections but pointed out candidates were able to get back on the ballot after filing a lawsuit both times it has been done.

Nimmer said Gardner will not be penalized for the money he used to pay for the lawyer in his case. He said the Board cannot charge Gardner with overspending when he was technically not a candidate.

Austin Carlson, SG law school representative, is filing a formal complaint against Gardner and Guevara claiming they have committed a number of financial violations, falsification of financial documents, trademark violations and broke early campaigning rules.

Carlson said Gardner and Guevara purchased multiple domain names but only cited one in their financial release and the one they use does not match the one they list on their financial statement. He also said they gathered in a large group to develop promotional materials and draw attention to themselves before official campaigning started, among other infractions.

Carlson said he is filing as an individual student and not as a representative of SG. He said if he does not support any specific candidate and if he is made aware of any violations Lawler and Lund commit, he will file against them as well.

The Board will review Carlson’s complaints against Gardner and Guevara in a public hearing tomorrow at 9 p.m. in a location to be announced.

“If he gets disqualified for financial violations, he doesn’t have a leg to stand on,” Carlson said. “If the ESB fines and the J-Court confirms that, I don’t see why the University won’t honor that. That’s the problem if the candidate has enough money and they don’t like the outcome, they can just sue.”

Lund said he received a call from Reagins-Lilly this morning informing him Madison had been reinstated. He said he is not sure if UT made the right decision. Lawler said he and Maas are trying to stay positive and it is unfortunate that Gardner felt he had to sue to get his name back on the ballot.

Printed on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 as: SG candidates reinstated Monday