Candidates take stage at forum

Photo: Independent presidential candidate Stefan Montouth answers a question at the forum.
Michael Gethers/Photo
Independent presidential candidate Stefan Montouth answers a question at the forum.

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Third-party and independent candidates took center stage at The Daily Californian's ASUC Candidates Forum on Friday in the absence of a traditional rivalry between the two main student political parties, given CalSERVE's decision not to run an executive slate and Student Action's decision not to attend the forum.

Four independent candidates were joined by candidates from the Defend Affirmative Action Party and the satirical SQUELCH! slate, speaking in front of an audience of about 40 people on topics ranging from the cost-cutting Operational Excellence initiative to the potential impacts of Gov. Jerry Brown's $500 million cut to the UC system.

Student Action's absence was also a recurring concern to several other candidates.

"I think it's a shame that the Student Action senators and executive candidates won't come and face the students in the only open forum that we have," said Stefan Montouth, independent presidential candidate and current CalSERVE senator, at the forum. "This is not a joke to me, and this is not a joke to many of the students that we hope to represent next year."

In a voicemail left with the Daily Cal Friday morning, Student Action Party Chair Shahriyar Bolandian said none of Student Action's four executive candidates - Vishalli Loomba, Christopher Alabastro, Joey Freeman and Julia Joung - would attend the forum in order to focus directly on their campaigns.

"We just feel this year we're better off doing grassroots campaigning and connecting to people on a personal level, reaching out to every student that we can, and that's why the decision was made," Bolandian said in the voicemail.

Loomba, Student Action's presidential candidate, also declined to attend the Daily Cal's ASUC Presidential Candidate Roundtable Discussion Sunday morning for similar reasons. She said she instead spent time preparing for the elections with her staff and speaking to potential voters.

In 2006, the last time CalSERVE did not run an executive slate, Student Action also did not attend the Daily Cal's forum.

According to Bolandian, the party has received requests to attend several other forums, some of which he said have also taken place without a Student Action presence. However, Loomba said she will attend a presidential forum held by the Residence Hall Assembly from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday - the final day of elections.

Though her party is typically known for its non-serious approach to elections, current SQUELCH! senator and academic affairs vice president candidate Rachel Horning brought up serious criticisms of Student Action's decision not to attend Friday's forum.

"They have confused effective leadership with satisfying personal ambition by not being here," Horning said.

Horning also questioned why Joung, her Student Action opponent, as well as the other three Student Action candidates, who are current senators, were not at the most recent ASUC Senate meeting when faculty head of the Operational Excellence program office Andrew Szeri spoke.

Though she said she was unable to make Szeri's presentation because she was attending to her campaign, Loomba said she was with at a preliminary discussion with Szeri in the senate chambers on Monday.

Joung could not be reached as of press time.


J.D. Morris is the lead student government reporter.

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