Six weeks ago, the Student Government presidential and vice presidential races each had five candidates. After weeks of deliberation over the disqualification of candidates Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara, the SG Judicial Court gave the final word Monday, leaving only two candidates on the ballot.
After more than six hours of deliberation and testimony from multiple parties, the SG Judicial Court sustained the Election Supervisory Board’s second disqualification of Gardner and Guevara Monday. Gardner said the court’s decision was tough to hear but said he did not plan to appeal to the Office of the Dean of Students or a Travis County court.
The SG presidential elections will take place Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The candidates are urban studies senior John Lawler and mechanical engineering senior Thor Lund.
Gardner said his and Guevara’s options for reinstatement on the ballot are limited at this point. He said he thinks the Board is biased against them because they disqualified Guevara and him twice.
“If you look at it, this is very unprecedented,” Gardner said. “There’s never been a disqualification like this over a small thing. If it were any other year, we wouldn’t have gotten disqualified. If it was any other candidate, we wouldn’t have gotten disqualified.”
Gardner said while he currently serves as external financial director for SG President Natalie Butler, he did not approve the Election Code because he does not vote on legislation. The SG General Assembly approved the Election Code on Jan. 17 with the association provision that disqualified Gardner and Guevara the first time.
The Board first disqualified the pair on Feb. 22 for associating with a candidate from another race. Gardner subsequently filed a lawsuit against UT for violating his First Amendment rights to association, but dropped the lawsuit when UT suspended the association provision for review on March 19 and reinstated him and Guevara.
“It’s unfortunate it really only takes five people to control the board,” Gardner said. “It’s unfortunate students weren’t able to decide. That’s the reality — we didn’t have a chance to get voted on. If our offenses are so serious let students decide that, not nine people.”
The SG General Assembly must look into the Election Code with diligence so unjust disqualifications do not happen in the future, Gardner said.
The candidates appealed their second disqualification last week, claiming the Board violated procedure when administering the disqualification, thereby violating their Fifth and Sixth Amendment constitutional rights. The Fifth Amendment protects people from being tried for the same offence twice, while the Sixth Amendment gives the affected party a right to know charges filed against him in order to gather a counsel.
Lawler said although the elections have lasted longer than he originally thought, he sees them as a test for him and running mate Terrence Maas. He said he and Maas have spent their time speaking at different organizations while the Election Supervisory Board and SG Judicial Court deliberated Gardner’s disqualification.
"[The prolonging of the elections] has been a distractor to all the positive things that have been going on with our campaign," Lawler said. “We’re not concerned with what’s fair and unfair at the moment, we’re trying to bring specific issues to light.”
Lund said a lot of students have been confused as to what exactly is going on in the SG presidential elections. Lund and running mate Wills Brown recently launched a campaign video entitled “Sh*t nobody says about SG elections” in an attempt to show students they sympathize with their frustration.
Lund said he feels the elections have been fair to his campaign.
“Fair is an interesting word because a lot of things aren’t fair, but I don’t feel that we’ve been wronged,” Lund said. “It’s not the situation that defines you, but how you perceive the situation.”
Lawler has not had any complaints filed against him during the elections. Lund has had one complaint filed against him by Gardner/Guevara campaign manager Alex Jones for copyright infringement, but he did not acquire any fines.
Gardner said he was very confident he and Guevara had a good chance of winning the elections and does not know if he will support a candidate for Wednesday’s and Thursday’s elections between Lawler and Lund. He said he does not know if he will stay at UT for another year to finish his Spanish degree or graduate with the McCombs School of Business in May.
If he does stay, he has not decided whether he will be involved in SG again.
“I’m not going to completely check out because I’m not president,” Gardner said. “A lot of me thinks it’s still possible to have an impact and improve campus and be a leader.”
Printed on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 as: Judicial Court upholds Gardner disqualification