As Student Association candidates gathered in the Marvin Center Feb. 25, clustered with their teams of supporters and anxiously awaiting election results, one man’s success created a unifying cheer throughout the room. With the announcement that Steve Holt was elected as a write-in candidate to Senior Class Council, proverbial party lines were crossed as the entire crowd celebrated.
But Holt was nowhere to be found that night, and according to the Joint Elections Committee – the independent body that oversees SA elections – he has until Monday to show himself and claim his seat.
Therein lies the problem for Holt. He is not a real person.
The campaign “Steve Holt for SA President” was the creation of a group of enthusiastic students who said they wanted to bring change to the SA, which they said often takes itself too seriously.
The campaign has led to much laughter and confusion among the student body, but to juniors Emily Smith, Andrew Buonopane and Jake Wolf – the minds behind the madness – it was all in the name of fun.
“We were just staying up late, hanging out, and running a fake campaign was one of the many stupid ideas that came into our heads at 1 o’clock [a.m.],” Smith said.
Smith, Wolf and Buonopane started the campaign as a way to poke fun at the seriousness of student elections, but never expected to get such a massive following. More than 350 people have joined Holt’s Facebook group, and 40 people are following him on Twitter. The campaign has also gained much attention from students, who managed to elect Holt to a seat as a write-in candidate for Senior Class Council representative.
“The attention from students is really surprising, and it’s really exciting to see people get so excited about the SA elections, which isn’t normally something that happens,” Smith said.
The trio chose Holt as their fictional candidate due to his persona on a FOX television show.
“Steve Holt is a character on the show Arrested Development,” said Smith, who added that the campaign slogans and platform came to them from an episode during which the character runs for student government president.
“He is a 26-year-old, seventh-year senior in his high school and has been president for the past four years. He declines a fifth term in order to concentrate on finding his real father. Needless to say, he’s got a lot of experience on his resume,” Smith said.
Smith, Buonapane and Wolf sought to adapt the show’s campaign for the GW campus. His campaign posters often read “Volt for Steve Holt.” The crowd at his re-election rally can be heard chanting “Four more years!”
“All the campaign themes come from that episode. A lot of the campaign slogans, we used to poster and on social networks, despite JEC regulations,” Buonopane said.
Holt’s platform addresses many issues pertinent to the student body.
On alcohol amnesty, “Steve Holt” says that he’d “like to help the University crack down on the use of drugs, especially forget-me-nows and oxy-incontinent. As for alcohol, I am 26 and do not entirely care about the policy.”
Holt also proposes additional funding for student organizations – having run an effective one himself, the Banana Shack – and he said he hopes to bring gender-neutral housing to campus with the help of one of his main endorsers, FakeStevenKnapp, a Twitter user who announced his support for the campaign via the microblogging medium.
When the JEC ruled that the fake candidate could not assume the position unless the campaign can produce a GW student with the same name, the Holt campaign made a video to show the JEC who Holt really is.
“We have recorded a video showing people who are fairly known around campus saying “I am Steve Holt!” to show support for the campaign,” said Buonopane. The video was released over the weekend.
Although the Holt campaign has caused laughter around campus, no real candidate appears to have been affected by his message of change. When asked how the Vote for Holt campaign impacted his chances of winning the election, newly-elected SA president Jason Lifton said that “it got people to talk about the elections and encouraged them to vote.”
“[Steve Holt] didn’t affect my attempt, only if there had been a write-in vote for the presidency,” Lifton said, referring to the new SA election rules that did not allow for write-in candidates in contested races.
Lifton also remarked that most people recognized that Steve Holt wasn’t a real person.
Freshman Leah Lawler was happy to see other students bring a little humor to campus life.
“I am so proud to go to a school where the SA literally doesn’t affect anything so much that Steve Holt can have a position in power,” she said.