Apr 092008
 
Authors: Sherri Blackman

Riding the wave of the greatest voter turnout in student government history, Taylor Smoot and Quinn Girrens clinched the victory of president and vice president of the Associated Students of CSU Wednesday night.

The candidates swept three other tickets by more than 1,100 votes, a feat Girrens credited to their “grassroots effort.”

“It was our ground game,” Smoot said. “We talked to over 76 student organizations and visited 45 classrooms.”

After a round of hugs and tears, Smoot and Girrens spoke of the work to be done.

“At CSU, the status quo isn’t working, and we have so much to do,” Smoot said.

And indeed they do. There will be no post-campaign hiatus for Smoot and Girrens, who 0fficially take office June 1.

“Right off the bat it’s pretty intense,” said Trevor Trout, current vice president of ASCSU. “They have to draft their executive budgets out of the $1 (million) to $2 million in change that ASCSU gets.”

Smoot and Girrens must also create the structure for their cabinets and hire for those positions. They must then take their budget to the funding board, get each line reviewed and get senate approval, all in the next month.

“Even if you’ve been in ASCSU, there is a learning curve. It takes sitting in this chair and being in this office,” said Katie Gleeson, current ASCSU president.

Gleeson said the incoming officers face issues that include: funding, student fees, textbook prices and tuition stabilization, as well as learning to work with administrators.

“A slew of problems, that I can’t even imagine, will arise,” Gleeson said. “No matter how focused you come into this position, you will face something that you didn’t think you would face.”

Smoot and Girrens will also learn to work with state legislators, she added, referring to the College Textbook Affordability Act, drafted by a CSU student and signed by Gov. Bill Ritter Tuesday.

“You have to go in there (the Capitol), showing them that you are willing to work hard, prove you have a good work ethic,” Gleeson said. “It is intimidating when you first get in here.”

Gleeson and Trout have promised to mentor and train new officers by leaving detailed records of their tenure and walking them through the process.

There was a moment last week when Smoot and Girrens campaign came under fire for campaign contributions, when the election committee required that they put a dollar amount on a free concert they sponsored in the plaza.

The concern was that campaign financing stay within the $2,000 limit mandated by ASCSU election policy. After a hearing with campaign finance officers, it was determined that the value of the concert fell within campaign financing limits.

Elections manager Emily Laue announced the results of the 2008 campaign to a standing-room only crowd in the Senate Chambers, which was broadcast live on CTV.

During the broadcast, Laue touted the efforts of the election committee, which surpassed its goal of 25 percent with more than 28 percent — 6,028 total –of the student body voting.

This year’s ASCSU turnout dwarfs the campus national average of 17 percent.

Laue said telling people how “they’re affected by student government” made the difference.

“ASCSU is more than just another student organization taking your money,” she said. “They are also there to make a difference in the lives of students.”

The number of candidates in this year’s election presented some challenges for the election committee, Laue said. The committee had to create more rigid rules to keep things fair, including monitoring time on the plaza to make it equal for all candidates.

But Laue doesn’t believe having four tickets in the election should result in a change of voting format to an instant run-off or another method that would ensure election of the favorite. Majority vote still rules, she said.

“A lot of times we’re struggling to get candidates (to run),” Laue said. “It’s hard to change the rules for something that happens once in a blue moon.”

While ASCSU celebrates a record turnout, Gleeson and Laue congratulated all the candidates for a good race.

“This is sort of a weird nostalgic day for me,” Gleeson said, remembering last year when she was the one waiting for election results, which “can be heartbreaking.”

Staff writer Shari Blackman can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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