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SGA presidential candidates discuss campaign finances, voting

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

As the Spring 2023 SGA elections head into voting, campaign finances have emerged as a central issue between both parties. This year, each party has a maximum of $10,000 which they may use for campaign expenditures. 

This campaign finance limit, which was raised from the previous amount of $1,200 in a revision made to the election code under Joshua Martin’s administration, has candidates carefully considering how best to use the increased financial scope.

“There are ways to piss away money, and there are ways to spend it efficiently,” said Students Unite Presidential candidate Benjamin Rizk. “So our campaign was intended on spending it effectively on the necessary materials.” 

Rizk said that the recent change to spending limits has put him in a position where he feels like he has to work harder than his opponent to spend a similar amount due to his personal lack of connections. 

“I’m not calling wealthy donors and billionaires. I’m calling friends and family,” Rizk said. “I’ve been getting two to three hours of sleep a night asking my mom, pop or uncles if I can borrow a quick buck.” 

While Rizk said that Martin’s change in the election code puts him at an inherent advantage, Martin disagreed and defended the recent campaign spending limit increase as essential to allowing campaigns to reach more students. 

“We’re focused on raising voter turnout and allowing people to be more free with their campaigns,” Martin said. “And I think it’s kind of hypocritical that Rizk attacks the election code when he spent three times the amount my party did in the first week of the campaign.”

Martin said that his funding came from various sources who were impressed by the results his administration had made so far and claimed that their campaign had spent around $2,200 as of the date of the interview.

“I think a lot of people have been happy with what we’ve been able to do in this past year,” Martin said. “And we’ve been able to garner the support of lots of people who believe in our vision.” 

Both candidates said that the majority of their spending to this date had been used on campaign resources such as flyers, campaign cards and stickers. Neither candidate said that the increased campaign spending limit had led to them paying campaign staff.

Rizk said that he was interested in the possibility of changing the election code to allow students to qualify for funding through the university. While Martin said that he believes the current election code is fair, he noted that he was open to the possibility of change. 

“Within the 59th administration, the Senate voted unanimously to pass this election code,” Martin said. “But next administration, we could have a whole new senate that could be interested in editing it to how they want it.” 

Both candidates expressed an interest in pursuing a higher voter turnout and encouraged students to vote in the upcoming election. 

“It’s important people vote,” Rizk said. “People need to recognize the importance of this election and recognize that the University is a beacon of where people come to solidify their values.”

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