Presidential candidate down, but not out of race

Alex Sonnich, a senior political science major is excited to run for president of Washburn Student Government Association, even though he knows he cannot win.

Sonnich is running alongside junior political science major Ivan Moya. Sonnich visited Student Activities and Greek Life director Jessica Barraclough on Friday to discuss his campaign, and get the necessary information about running for office. That discussion quickly changed to one for the worse.

In order for Sonnich and Moya to be on the ballot for the upcoming elections, they had to complete a petition with 100 signatures from students. These petitions also had information and requirements for the presidential position. On every petition handed out to candidates, the GPA requirement for that office was listed as a 2.00 cumulative. 

“A little low for a student body president at a university, I thought,” said Sonnich.

As Sonnich, Barraclough and current WSGA president Eric Benedict sifted through WSGA’s constitution and by-laws, they found that the actual GPA requirement was listed as 3.00. The number on the petition was incorrect, and was described as a “clerical error.”

“A clerical error which reversed our fortunes when I realized I currently have a 2.96 GPA,” said Sonnich. “That renders me ineligible to sit on the ballot or hold office if elected.”

According to Sonnich, after several frenzied minutes of reviewing the constitution and by-laws, they learned not only would Sonnich be disqualified from the ballot, but his campaign would need to find a new running mate for Moya, who meets the qualifications. They would need a new vice-president nominee, 100 new signatures, and a picture and short biography of the new candidate–all of which was due by 5 p.m. Friday. Sonnich had three hours to either get this all done, or make a new decision.

“As it stands at the moment, we are officially the unofficial write-in candidates for President and Vice,” said Sonnich. “If we were to win the popular vote on Election Day, we’d still be rendered ineligible by the Election Board and the runner-up would be named to the positions.”

So, instead of giving up, Sonnich and Moya have taken a different approach: a campaign based on principles and ideas.

“We’ve made our supporters aware that we’ve been shot down, because at this point we’re running to keep our ideas moving forward,” said Sonnich. “We’re just looking to bring some exposure to the election process for students who may not otherwise know.”

That exposure to a process was Sonnich’s goal in the first place, and it’s something that the opposing candidates support as well.

“Jessie [McGown] and I were both upset that an error ended Alex and Ivan’s campaign,” said Shelbie Konkel, junior political science and history major. 

Konkel is also running for president, alongside junior biology major Jessie McGown. 

“I have an immense amount of respect for them both, personally and professionally,” said Konkel. “We agree with Alex and Ivan that students should have better access to WSGA.”

Sonnich and Moya did not participate in Tuesday night’s debate in the Mabee Library. Originally they planned to participate but they will not be able to, according to Benedict.

Sonnich said that this news was “disappointing and frustrating,” but he won’t let that stop him.

On Friday evening, the Sonnich/Moya campaign had many questions, the biggest of all being, “How did this happen?”

“I believe the error occurred because the wrong application was updated,” said Barraclough.

On Friday afternoon, WSGA officials posted an update to their Facebook page. It states that “all Senate candidates must carry a 2.0 cumulative GPA,” and that President/VP candidates must carry a 3.0. 

“Rounding up is not an option with many situations in regards to GPA,” said Barraclough. “This would set a precedence that we or future administration would not want to set.”

The status also says “due to a clerical error, online forms and photographs will be accepted until 5 p.m., Monday, March 4.”

“I understand Alex’s frustrations, I’ve had something similar happen to me with a scholarship,” said Brett Johnson, senior kinesiology major. Johnson is the speaker pro tempore for WSGA. “It was a simple mistake that was bound to happen sometime. It just so happened that it occurred at the wrong place, and the wrong time. It’s unfortunate.”

Regardless of the mistake, Sonnich is determined to make the most out of his campaign efforts.

“People are, I think, receptive to the message we’re trying to send,” said Sonnich. “We think that if someone will be running the student government for a year, its constituency should have some options, or at least a voice.”

Even though Sonnich/Moya will be write-in candidates only, they appeared at the debate for the sake of their supporters, and themselves.

“Experience is everything,” said Sonnich. “You don’t fully know a process until you’ve lived it.”

Elections will be online at www.mywashburn.edu, and it will begin at 8 a.m., March 6  through 8.