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Winning an election 101: SGA parties discuss campaign strategies

“My favorite part about campaigning has been being able to hang out with our team more,” Tabbara said. “They are some cool people, and it’s been great to be able to build my community of passionate people.” | Anh Le/ The Cougar

With elections beginning for the 61st administration of the Student Government Association, candidates from each party had time to adopt and employ their differing campaigning styles.

This year’s presidential race is between the incumbent Students Unite party, headed by political science sophomores Cody Szell and Mohammed Tabbara, against the new For All Cougars party, led by biochemistry sophomore Diego Arriaga and sports administration junior Austin Craig. While both parties in this election frequently interact with students on campus and during events, they have distinct goals and methods of fostering communication with students. 

“We’re mainly just trying to focus on our consistent outreach efforts. I’m always out and around campus,” Szell said. “Overall, I’m visiting a lot of organization meetings and speaking with many organizational leaders.”

For both parties, using count-me-in cards is a prominent campaigning strategy. Count-me-in cards are forms that parties give to students for them to give their information. When voting begins, the parties will notify the student about the process and urge them to vote for their party. 

For All Cougars have distinguished their campaign by hosting tabling events around campus and asking students about their overall University experience.

“We set up a table with a board that says, ‘We want to hear your voice,’” Craig said. “We ask students how they feel about parking, and we open the door for them to talk with us.”

According to Arriaga and Craig, this approach allows them to interact with students on a more personable basis.

“Meeting new people is my favorite part of campaigning,” Arriaga said. “I’ve met so many different people, and they come to us with an issue, and we’ll talk with them. I just enjoy meeting new people.”

According to Szell, Students Unite’s campaign strategy is less centralized and emphasizes approaching students directly to talk with them about their party platform. 

While the parties have distinct approaches, one commonality among them is the struggle to consistently campaign throughout the three-week election period. However, for both parties, the benefits of engaging with students outweigh the struggles. 

 “Going to sleep sometimes at 2 a.m. and then waking up early to carry a big box to the library and campaigning can be difficult at times,” Szell said. “But getting a bag full of count-me-in cards at the end of the day always makes it worth it.”

Another critical part of campaigning for SGA elections is obtaining endorsements from other student organizations. However, the types of student organizations that endorse the parties differ.

According to Arriaga and Craig, the organizations that endorse the For All Cougars party primarily consist of campus fraternities. Students Unite, however, has obtained endorsements from a more diverse range of organizations, including the UH Economics Society, the College of Architecture student council, and Cougar Closet.

“Getting endorsements from student organizations is important to our campaign,” Szell said. “It shows the party’s resolve about solving specific issues that students and organizations experience.”

Both parties claim to have accomplished their goals for the campaign period. However, each one has different goals for their campaigns, whether it is through passing out flyers to students or just interacting with them.

“We had our goals for getting people to fill out our supporter forms just to see that people are rallying behind our cause. And we hit our goals for the most part,” Arriaga said. “But we’re not worried about numbers. We just want those quality connections.”

Voting has begun for the next administration of SGA and will continue until Wednesday, Feb. 28.

“My favorite part about campaigning has been being able to hang out with our team more,” Tabbara said. “They are some cool people, and it’s been great to be able to build my community of passionate people.”

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