SA candidates spend less in shorter campaign season

Media Credit: Sam Hardgrove | Staff Photographer

The winners of the top Student Association races last week were by far the campaign’s biggest spenders, though the candidates spent significantly less money than in past years.

Avra Bossov, executive vice president-elect, spent more than four times as much as her highest-spending competitor. Nick Gumas, president-elect, spent nearly double what his competitor spent over the two-week campaign.

Gumas and Bossov shelled out $787.22 and $961.28, respectively, on t-shirts, palm cards, posters and websites.

Candidates can spend up to $1,000 on campaigning for executive positions, which come with a $15,000 stipend for the president and $7,500 for the No. 2 seat.

That spending paid off. Gumas won with an overwhelming 74 percent of the vote over Daniel Egel-Weiss, who spent $400.47 on his campaign, with more than half of the money going toward posters and palm cards.

Egel-Weiss said fewer competitors meant a leaner campaign budget.

“With fewer candidates, there’s less of a need to spend as much money because you’re competing against less individuals,” he said.

Bossov staved off her two opponents, Chris Stillwell and Paul Lisbon, and avoided a runoff with 57 percent of the vote. Her opponents spent $240.26 and $28.17, respectively.

In recent years, the top spots have come with a steep cost. The last two SA presidents both spent more than $900 during their campaigns. Though the group’s 2012-2013 president, Ashwin Narla, was outspent by his opponent, John Bennett, both nearly reached the spending limit.

Stillwell said spending hundreds of dollars isn’t the best way for candidates to get their names out. Instead, the only surefire way to get exposure is meeting with students and getting endorsements, he said.

“Most people that vote are in student groups,” he said. “Getting their endorsements, meeting their members, going to Greek life chapters is going to get people elected.”

There was also less time to spend money this campaign season compared to last year’s month-long campaign, during which Susuni spent $968.00.

Gumas has pledged to create a peer counseling system, modeled after Cornell University’s program, as well as reduce the financial burden for students taking internships for credit.

Bossov pledged to improve communication between SA senators and administrators by inviting GW’s top leaders to speak at the group’s meetings and hold an open forum.

The costs of SA elections also became a campaign issue this year, as one candidate criticized the high spending limit as adding a financial barrier. Senators are allowed to spend up to $500 on their campaigns.

“It only serves to make it more difficult for students to run, leading to a lack of fair representation,” Frank Fritz, who sought to represent the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, wrote in his platform.

Fritz, who was not elected, pledged to spend no more than $100 on his campaign – one-fifth of the spending cap – to bring attention to the issue. He said he would urge the organization to cut its spending caps by at least a quarter. Instead, he said the SA should give students funds to campaign if they meet a higher signature threshold for their petitions.

“I realize this change must change not in the next election, but rather is must start now,” Fritz wrote.

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