This story is part of The GW Hatchet’s 2006 SA Election Guide.
The buildings are littered with campaign posters, and you’re one of about 80 students running for a spot in next year’s Student Association – so how do you make yourself stand out?
Some students go the traditional route: posters with their names and faces. Some students make comical posters with a photograph of themselves as movie characters, such as the Hulk or Derek Zoolander. In previous years students have handed out “Clean up the SA” toilet paper, while some have handed out candy; one candidate even created a hip-hop theme song for his campaign.
So far, SA veterans said this year’s election accessories have paled in comparison to previous years’ campaign gimmicks. But the election is not over yet.
This year’s campaign gimmicks
Each year candidates attempt to out-campaign one another by trying to do something that will set them apart from the crowd.
“There are very impressive posters out this year, as compared to past years,” said junior Liz Fox, chair of the Joint Elections Committee, which oversees this week’s contests. “I’m sure that the campaign material will come flooding in this week, so that candidates can hand out materials on the days of the election.”
“I’m sure there will be some very innovative things,” she added. “There always are.”
Candidates were allowed to start postering last Wednesday at 7 a.m., and by 8 a.m. the campus had been littered with campaign advertisements. Each candidate has a different approach to the SA posters.
Nick D’Addario, a sophomore candidate for SA president, said his slate, the College Party, tried to keep posters simple with just a name and photograph.
“Campaign materials let students know that you are running, but without good ideas these campaign materials will have no impact on the outcome of the election,” D’Addario said.
D’Addario plans on passing out bottle openers and water bottles that say The College Party, the name of his slate on them, in addition to the usual buttons, palm cards, candy and business cards.
Nate Hayward, a junior running for SA president, plans on solely using his poster to get his name out. The poster is hard to miss, as it has Hayward’s face on the body of a red Hulk-like character with the slogan “Breaking down Barriers.”
Casey Pond, sophomore candidate for SA president, said he will be handing out palm cards – but don’t expect candy from him.
“Gimmicks affect the campaign some, but ultimately I think it will always come down to the candidate which connected with students more,” Pond said.
More students this year have chosen to run on a slate, or a group of several students with the same slogan and ideas. The College Party slogans are “Putting the STUDENT back into Student Association since 2006.”
The slate has put “We want to end the BS” on a poster with a bull defecating.
Others are lucky their name can play a large part in the campaign, such as Maggie Desmond’s U-At Large poster declaring “Marge in Charge” or PB Executive Vice Chair candidate Dustin Wright’s “Wright for GW, Wright for You.” Bea Querido is running for Program Board chair and is urging students to “O’Bea your thirst,” a reference to Sprite’s slogan.
Campaign rules and how they’ve changed
The JEC, the election’s oversight body, has capped the amount of money candidates running for SA president, SA executive vice president and Program Board can spend at $1,000 this year. If candidates go over the budget, they will face violations and risk being removed from the ballot. Candidates can receive up to nine violations before being removed from the ballot; last year seven violations was the threshold.
Candidates for SA senator at-large seats from the graduate or undergraduate divisions have a limit of $800, and all other candidates for Senate are capped at spending $600. Candidates for the Marvin Center Governing Board have a limit of $250, according to JEC guidelines.
Changes to JEC rules in recent years have changed the way candidates spend their money. For example, two years ago SA presidential candidates could spend $800 in the general SA election, and if they got into the run-off they could spend an additional $400. JEC rules now permit the $1,000 spending cap to be for the general and run-off election. Candidates now have to decide if they will save money to spend in the run-off.
Campaign strategies of the past
Junior Justin Neidig, who is advising the GWUnited team and was the chair of the JEC last year, said he thinks there has been a change in the way students campaign for the SA in the last three years.
“I’ve seen less giveaways this year compared to previous years, but I think candidates who have not yet done giveaway will on election day,” Neidig said.
Neidig and the GWUnited team have handed out juice boxes with a “Quench your thirst for a better SA” sticker on them, and Niedig said the team may have more giveaways on election day.
“It seems like candidates are moving away from the flashy, eye-catching campaign gimmicks and trying to focus the campaigning on substantive issues,” Neidig said.
In 2003-2004 SA Executive Vice President Eric Daleo handed out toilet paper with “Clean up the SA” written on it. Presidential candidate Kris Hart gave out condoms, with “Kris Hart’s got you covered” written on the wrapper. Lee Roupas ran a campaign for SA president two years ago with a “Fire up GW” theme, and all his campaign materials were bright red.
Last year SA presidential candidate CJ Calloway, now a senior, created a hip-hop song with the lyrics “Vote CJ” as the repeating chorus. Senior Jon Ostrower themed his campaign on the Metro subway system and with his slogan that his presidency would “Open Doors,” Metro’s slogan.
“I remember one candidate promoted himself by throwing a party in his name,” Hart said.
Hart said one of the worst traits for a candidate is to be petty and competitive prior to the election.
“There will probably be students that forget this, but the most important thing is the position,” Hart said. “It’s the actual office that matters, not the campaigning.”
SA hopefuls will find out Wednesday and Thursday which campaign gimmicks and slogans truly stuck in students’ minds.
-Brandon Butler contributed to this report.