Diamond, Matthews head to SA presidential runoff election

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Freshman Justin Diamond, who launched a last-minute write-in campaign for SA president earlier this week, celebrates Thursday after the Joint Elections Commission announced that he would move on to a runoff election next week.

Updated: March 31, 2019 at 3:40 p.m.

Freshman Justin Diamond and junior SJ Matthews will go head-to-head in a runoff election for Student Association president next week.

James Ingram, the chairman of the Joint Elections Commission – the body that oversees SA elections – announced Thursday that none of the four candidates for SA president reached the 40 percent threshold required by the SA constitution to capture the top spot. The runoff election will be held over a 12-hour period next Thursday, he said.

A runoff for SA president has not been held since 2012.

Diamond and Matthews, who are both SA outsiders, received 27 and 25 percent of the vote, respectively. Candidates ShanTorrian Underwood and Nicole Cennamo, who are both current members of the SA, received about 24 and 18 percent of the vote, respectively, Ingram said.

Diamond announced an 11th-hour bid for the SA’s top post Monday with a platform focused on dissolving the SA and reallocating the SA president’s $15,000 stipend to student organizations. If elected, Diamond would be both the first freshman and write-in candidate to secure the SA’s top spot in recent memory.

“The big surprise is having a write-in candidate come in so late in the game and really give other candidates a run for the money,” Ingram said.

Diamond’s run for the position exploded on social media within hours of his announcement, with dozens of students posting memes, photos and videos related to his campaign.

“We’ll see how it unfolds,” Diamond said. “I hope that I can continue gaining support among the students, and I hope that I can reach out to students beyond just the meme page because I want everyone to see me as a serious candidate.”

Matthews, who currently heads the Residence Hall Association, ran on a platform highlighting community. She plans to give students tap access to every residence hall, refurbish the Marvin Center and eliminate some general education requirements for students in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Matthews, who said she was “pretty surprised” by the outcome of the election, did not attend the announcement of results in the Marvin Center Thursday.

“I didn’t expect a write-in candidate to be in a runoff,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the runoff.”

Underwood, an SA senator and candidate for SA president, declined to comment. Cennamo, the SA’s vice president for academic affairs and a candidate for president, said Matthews and Diamond should ensure that they make students a “top priority” as they continue in the race.

“I think that this is something unprecedented in recent years – seeing a write-in candidate get this amount of votes – so I think it will be interesting to see what happens,” Cennamo said.

A total of 4,967 students voted in this year’s election, an increase from the roughly 4,200 ballots cast last year but still short of the record 5,456 students who voted in 2015.

Sophomore Amy Martin, an SA senator representing the Elliott School of International Affairs, was also elected as executive vice president with 46 percent of the vote. Martin’s platform focused on offering diversity training for student organizations, changing the Colonials nickname and increasing awareness of Title IX policies on Blackboard and faculty course syllabi.

“I think that our priorities are to start to educate the new senate – that’s first and foremost,” Martin said. “We want to make sure they know how to do their jobs, and we want to have conversations ahead of time, setting expectations for next year because I think it is really important that we all go in with the same expectations.”

Martin defeated junior Quentin McHoes, a recent transfer and SA outsider. McHoes received 40 percent of the vote.

“I’m excited to work with her for any of her endeavors that she decides to undertake in this role,” McHoes said.

Students also voted narrowly in favor of a controversial referendum calling on GW to abandon the Colonials nickname, with 54 percent of voters supporting the effort. The issue has been hotly contested since students launched a petition last spring calling on the University to choose a new nickname, which garnered more than 500 supporters.

A majority of students also supported two other referendums that will make two internal changes to the SA. The first replaces the vice president for community affairs with the vice president for government relations, and another adds a nondiscrimination policy to the SA’s constitution. Those referendums passed with 66 and 87 percent of the vote, respectively.

Lillian Bautista, Jared Gans, Cayla Harris, Kelly Hooper, Lizzie Mintz, Paige Morse, Gabby Pino, Leah Potter, Meredith Roaten and Zach Schonfeld contributed reporting.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Diamond launched his campaign on Tuesday. He announced his candidacy Monday. We regret this error.

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