By Jonathan Smith, Editor in Chief
Students had the opportunity Monday night to hear Students’ Association executive officer candidates discuss the issues and their campaigns hours before students could begin casting votes.
The seven candidates for the positions of president, vice president and treasurer participated in annual debates as part of a one-hour Chapel forum in Moody Coliseum.
Presidential candidates Maher Saab and Cameron Hartsell spent a majority of their time debating the necessity of a vision for SA and experience on Congress.
“It’s one thing to have a vision – which is key – but it’s another to have experience to back up that vision,” said Saab, who has served this year on Congress as an Administration Building representative. “I know what it’s like as a student; I know what it’s like on Congress because I’ve been a part of both worlds.”
Hartsell, who has not served on Congress during his three years here, said, despite his inexperience on Congress, he has taken steps to develop contacts within the university’s administration that will help him represent the students’ voice. He also likened himself to average students, having been involved in several student groups on campus but never Congress.
Saab stressed the need for networking among student groups, and Hartsell focused on his desire to improve the communication, accessibility and accountability of Congress to students.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the debates came minutes before the conclusion with Tyler Cosgrove, running for his third term as treasurer, at the microphone.
Running unopposed for the second year in a row as treasurer, Cosgrove did not need to convince students to vote for him. Instead, he used his few minutes at the end of the forum to openly endorse Hartsell for president because of his vision for Congress. The endorsement sent a murmur of various reactions through the crowd of students – some applauding Cosgrove’s message, others disapproving, while some simply were shocked at what was happening.
The majority of the debates went to questions for the four vice presidential candidates. Each candidate brought a different message to students.
Eric Johnson expressed his desire to meet each student and understand the concerns and desires of students for SA.
More than once, Jordan Williams acknowledged he was not the best public speaker but expressed a willingness to do the behind-the-scenes work of the vice president, while also touting his two years of experience on Congress.
Although he also has two years of experience on Congress, Brandon Smith stressed the need to focus on what candidates plans are for now and the future, not past accomplishments.
Manda Mosley, who is the only candidate with no previous experience on Congress, said her experience as treasurer of Delta Theta social club plus her ability to bring fresh ideas to Congress would make her the best candidate.
Current vice president Melanie Booker, who is in charge of elections, said she was excited about the opportunity to attend the debates.
“I love it when the candidates get a chance to speak frankly to students,” Booker said. “I’m excited that so many people got exposure to the candidates and the issues.”
Early voting began Monday night in freshman residence hall lobbies. Regular voting began after Chapel on Tuesday with voting booths in the Campus Center, Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building atrium and Mabee Business Building. Voting continues in those locations until 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The vice presidential election could necessitate a run-off if none of the four candidates receive at least 50 percent of the vote during the first round of voting. In that case, the top two vote-getters will compete in a run-off election Thursday, with the winner of the run-off being named vice president.