Junior SJ Matthews was elected as Student Association president Thursday, capturing about 67 percent of the vote in the SA’s first runoff election in seven years.
Matthews, who is currently the Residence Hall Association president, ran on a platform of offering students tap access to all residence halls, increasing transparency in the SA and dropping some general education requirements. She beat out freshman Justin Diamond, a write-in candidate who campaigned on a promise to abolish the SA.
“I have really worked hard to advocate for the students since I got to campus, and I am really excited to have another year to do that,” Matthews said.
The candidates headed to a runoff after none of the four presidential hopefuls passed the 40 percent threshold needed to secure the position last week. The last SA presidential runoff was held in 2012.
Diamond – who did not register with the Joint Elections Commission, the body that oversees SA elections – took about 33 percent of the vote. He launched a last-minute bid for the presidency early last week with a platform vowing to cut the SA and reallocate the SA president’s $15,000 scholarship to student organizations.
His campaign almost immediately exploded on GW’s Facebook memes page, garnering him the largest share of votes in last week’s election.
But some student organizations pushed back against his campaign this week, saying that eliminating the SA would cut one of the only means of student representation. Both GW Program Board and GW Class Council endorsed Matthews for the SA’s top spot earlier this week, marking the first time the organizations have backed a candidate.
“I was hoping to win, but it doesn’t surprise me that a lot of the other candidates’ votes funneled into SJ,” Diamond said. “They were all sort of establishment candidates, as it were.”
He added that he received enough write-in votes last week to secure an SA Senate seat representing the Elliott School of International Affairs. He said he will “continue to attempt to destroy the SA from within.”
A total of 4,727 students voted in the runoff election, a slight drop from the 4,967 students who cast a ballot last week.
“I wasn’t sure how it would compare to the general election, but obviously the turnout was very strong,” James Ingram, the chairman of the JEC, said. “I think that says a lot about both Justin and SJ’s campaigns. They both certainly sparked a lot of interest from our students here and I’m happy to see them turn out to polls.”
Though the presidential election ended in uncertainty last week, SA Sen. Amy Martin, ESIA-U, won her bid for SA executive vice president. About 54 percent of voters also approved a student-wide referendum urging the University to change the Colonials nickname.
Alisa Kingsbury, Lizzie Mintz and Paige Morse contributed reporting.