Rotnofsky and Mandalapu elected SG leaders for upcoming school year

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Supporters of the Rotnofsky-Mandalapu campaign lift up Student Government president-elect Xavier Rotnofsky after the runoff election results were announced Thursday evening. Rotnofsky and vice president-elect Rohit Mandalapu received 59.2 percent of the vote.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Full story: Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu won the Student Government executive alliance race Thursday with 59.2 percent of the vote after three weeks of intense campaigning against Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi.

Rotnofsky and Mandalapu, whose platform was primarily satirical in nature, ran the most successful humor campaign the University has seen in decades. Their platform included items such as asking that SG officers wear all-cellophane outfits — to increase transparency — and a promise to open up an on-campus Chili’s.

“It’s a bizarre feeling, but it’s so validating,” Rotnofsky said. “First thing, we’re going downtown to dance.”

The race between Jones-Dargahi and Rotnofsky-Mandalapu generated significant student interest. 9,445 students cast votes in the run-off election, besting last spring’s overall election turnout by about 1,300 votes.

Jones said he and Dargahi ran a strong campaign, and said he looks forward to seeing what the pair will accomplish in office.

“I’m so proud of everything we did in this campaign,” Jones said. “I know [Rotnofsky and Mandalapu] have a big learning curve, but they’ll do great.”

Kimia Dargahi and Braydon Jones react after hearing the results of the runoff election. Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Although most of their campaign materials were humorous in nature, the campaign became more serious as it gained momentum, and Rotnofsky and Mandalapu gave substantive answers to certain questions.

“We strongly oppose Campus Carry and would work with students and administrators to show that the university is strongly opposed to such legislation,” the team wrote in a University Democrats questionnaire.

The Rotnofsky-Mandalapu platform also included a bill the pair already wrote and introduced to SG, calling for the removal of the on-campus Jefferson Davis statue. Ultimately, the statue’s presence became one of the most talked-about issues of the election season.

“To put him on a pedestal, quite literally, is wrong,” Rotnofsky told the Texan.

They also took some questions slightly less than seriously: When asked how they would establish a strong relationship with the next UT president, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu suggested they would invite the president for brunch and mimosas — although Rotnofsky clarified the mimosas would have to wait until he turns 21, the legal drinking age, in June.

The duo also said they hoped to work closely with the SG Assembly. The relationship between the Assembly and the outgoing executive branch has been tense at times over the last several months.

“It’s about creating an environment where everyone in the group, instead of thinking we’re on two rivaling sides — it’s, ‘oh, we’re in this together,’” Mandalapu told the Texan last week. “So I think social involvement is a big deal. Like, maybe we could all get together and watch 'Click,' featuring Adam Sandler.”

“Or 'Jack and Jill,' featuring Adam Sandler,” Rotnofsky added.

At the SG debate, Mandalapu said the biggest issue SG faces is “being relevant to 90 percent of the school” and reaching out to smaller student groups.

“You would be wrong if you said Student Government wasn’t heavily [composed of] spirit groups and Greek life — that’s a big demographic group,” Mandalapu said. “I feel like there are times when certain minority groups aren’t reached out to, and they don’t get full representation in Student Government.”

Over the course of the campaign, the alliance maintained an active, vocal presence on social media. They released one video of themselves courting endorsements from local fast-food restaurants, and another video that was an attack ad against themselves.

Xavier Rotnofsky signs international nutrition junior Chaz Co's forehead on Thursday evening after the runoff results were announced. Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Yik Yak, an anonymous social media app, played a significant role in Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s victory, according to Chris Gilman, Texas Travesty editor-in-chief. 

“In the past couple days, Xavier and Rohit have barely actually gone out and campaigned themselves — it’s literally just been people we don’t even know going and vouching for them,” Gilman said.

Arjun Mocherla, who was an agent on the Jones-Dargahi campaign, said he was pleased with the increase in voter turnout. 

“I think Xavier and Rohit proved that you can’t just do the same old thing and do it better — you have to do something really different,” Mocherla, who is also vice president of the Texas Student Media Board, said.

Biochemistry sophomore Kamia Rathore said she thinks Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s humor and enthusiasm will change students’ perception of SG. 

“They made campus excited about elections, which is something that’s really rare to see,” Rathore said. “They have fresh and exciting ideas, and they show that they can have a good time while they’re talking about them, too.”

Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Julia Brouillette and Jordan Rudner contributed to this report.

Read the live blog from tonight's election results below.

Update (6:45 p.m.): As a crowd of roughly 150 waited on the Main Mall for election results, Plan II junior Paul Soto said he didn't understand why the election results would be delayed or require special certification.

"It seems weird … it's an electronic vote," Soto said. "It seems like something that should be cut and dry."

Update (6:38 p.m.): This year's election has garnered significant student interest. Engineering senior Anil Raj, who came to listen to the results, said he has never voted in an SG election before.

"I think [Rotnofsky-Mandalapu] is getting more people interested in SG," Raj said.

Jessica Sherman, current SG external affairs committee chair, said she thought Jones-Dargahi was the clear choice.

"I'm so in support of Braydon because I truly believe he will do the best job," Sherman said.

Forty minutes after the results were scheduled to be announced, ESB officer Zack Long said the delay involved the results being certified "to prevent misinformation when results are announced."

Update (6:26 p.m.): According to ESB officers, the results will be announced at 6:45 p.m., 45 minutes behind schedule. No reason was provided for the delay.

Update (6:08 p.m.): Eight minutes after the ESB board promised the announce the election results, the crowd at the Main Mall is still gathering. Vice presidential candidate Kimia Dargahi said she is more than ready to hear the results.

"I'm feeling optimistic," Dargahi said. "I know we did all we could do."

Rohit Mandalapu, the opposing vice presidential candidate, said he had no idea how the election results would turn out.

"I actually don't know how I feel," Mandalapu said. "We've had so many people say they voted for us, but I know the other side [has heard that too]."

Original post (5:37 p.m.): After three weeks of intense campaigning, election season is coming to a close. In just under half an hour, the Election Supervisory Board will announce the winner of the run-off election to determine the next Student Government president and vice president.

The run-off election was trigged after the first election last Thursday, when no executive alliance ticket captured the needed 50 percent of the student vote. Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi polled at 46.34 percent, while Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu garnered 26.9 percent.

To catch up on all the coverage of both campaigns, as well as the candidates' platforms and biographies, check out our comprehensive round-ups: here's Jones-Dargahi, and here's Rotnofsky-Mandalapu.

For live updates from the Main Mall, where results will be announced, follow reporter Samantha Ketterer at @sam_kett. Results should be announced shortly after 6 p.m.