The GUSA executive tickets participated in a debate Tuesday evening in Sellinger Lounge, marking the halfway point of this year’s executive elections.

The debate was the first opportunity for candidates to formally present their campaign platforms to a student audience. While a few issues have surfaced as priorities for every ticket, most candidates have hoped to forge a unique identity for their campaigns.

David Loebsack (MSB ’05) and Roni LaSasso said that there are only two issues concerning the Georgetown community that student association leaders can deliver on: a reformed housing policy and a living wage for workers.

“My ticket has a simple yet realistic platform,” Loebsack said, criticizing his opponents for trying to address too much in their platforms and making promises he says they cannot accomplish.

But Pravin Rajan (SFS ’07) and Nate Wright (COL ’06) defend their 27-page, 17-point platform, which presents positions and plans on an array of issues. Rajan said that his ticket’s housing proposal incorporates advice and ideas from many experts on the issue.

“We want students to start dreaming again about how student government represents them,” Wright said.

The Rajan-Wright ticket, billed as a “GU Revolution,” is emphasizing the need for a new way of problem-solving that incorporates more student voices. Such an approach, they say, will produce such achievements as a reformed alcohol policy.

Colin Krainin (COL ’07) and Chin-Hao Huang (SFS ’07) said the biggest problem facing the student association is the lack of communication between members and students. Krainin pledged to expand the executive branch and place people on his staff based on ability, not patronage.

The two are embracing their outsider status in the race, saying much of the blame for GUSA’s current problems belongs to those who have been involved most recently.

“They’ve failed,” Huang said of current GUSA members.

Paul Diver (COL ’06) and Deets Sankaranarayan (SFS ’06) also cite a communication failure within GUSA, pointing to last year’s low voter turnout in the executive elections. They propose online student surveys and a better delivery process for GUSA’s newsletter, The Pawprint, which they say students do not read.

Diver has been involved in Interhall and was President of Village C West, so his ticket is not without experience. Neither candidate had any qualms about the ticket’s lack of prior involvement in GUSA.

“There’s GUSA experience, and then there’s Georgetown experience,” Sankaranarayan said. He said that outsider status gave him and Diver “more solidarity with the campus at large.”

Happy Johnson (COL ’07) and Vikram Agrawal (SFS ’07), on the other hand, are touting their own experience in GUSA in their campaign to “fight for one Georgetown.” They propose GOCard expansion and more emphasis on community councils.

“I don’t have a defeatist attitude,” Johnson said of the problems facing GUSA. He said he hopes to motivate students at the grassroots level to change the perception of GUSA on campus. Agrawal said the ticket’s platform is still growing in response to student input.

So far, the campaign has not ignited widespread student interest. The schedule of campaign events has been less rigorous this year, with the campaign season being extended from seven to 14 days as part of the bylaw reform adopted by the GUSA Assembly this September.

Only four of the nine tickets in the race hung banners in Red Square. Since then, campaigning has taken place mostly in residence halls, with candidates and their representatives bringing messages to individual students.

The election commission has not reported any incidents of campaign violations. New election bylaws require immediate disqualification of candidates who commit any violations of campaign laws.

As the campaign heats up, another political battle rages on behind the scenes. GUSA President Kelley Hampton (SFS ’05) pledged at the last GUSA Assembly meeting to continue pushing her proposed referendum to the GUSA Constitution.

Hampton had decided to forgo plans to place the referendum on the same ballot as the executive elections, but says she hopes to have it placed on a special ballot before Spring Break.

On the campaign trail, reaction to the proposal has been overwhelmingly negative. Candidates cite flaws in the proposal itself and well as the way in which it was developed, which they say was too secretive.

Johnson and Agrawal, who Hampton cited as having worked closely on the proposal, have retracted some of their earlier support for it, saying they only favor the idea of class presidents and vice presidents.

Hampton has chosen to try and gain ballot access for the proposal with the necessary 1,400 student signatures rather than the untenable 11 votes in the Assembly. She said she will still push the proposal even if the student body elects a new president who opposes its adoption.

Hampton said that she thinks the idea of competitions between a sitting president and a president-elect would not have a negative impact on the student community.

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