Judge to determine status of SG election

Jody Serrano

A Travis County judge may determine whether former Student Government presidential candidate Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara will be allowed back on the election ballot by Monday, March 12, according to the Texas Attorney General’s office.

Judge Tim Sulak issued a temporary restraining order for at least 14 days against the SG executive alliance elections on Feb. 27 to review Gardner’s case and determine whether he and Guevara were wrongfully disqualified from the elections. The Daily Texan received information from an anonymous source on Wednesday in response to Gardner’s lawsuit against UT. The source claimed a document Gardner signed in 2010 affirms that Gardner believes SG candidates give up certain rights to free speech during an election.

Gardner filed a lawsuit against the University of Texas and the University of Texas Student Government claiming the Election Code that the Election Supervisory Board and the SG Judicial Court used to disqualify him and Guevara is unconstitutional because it violates their constitutional rights to freedom of association.

The source requested to remain anonymous because of fear of retaliation from the Gardner campaign.

“Candidates who wish to run for office voluntarily enter into the agreement created by the Election Code,” the document stated. “The Election Code is an established set of rules that governs campus election processes and certain stipulations do limit the right of free speech. Nevertheless, candidates voluntarily submit themselves to the Election Code when running for office, and thus, give up certain rights to speech.”

Gardner said the document was taken out of context and does not relate to his suit at the moment. He said he endorsed the document in an attempt to get the Appellate Court to allow elected representatives to endorse executive alliance candidates in the run off election after the campus-wide positions had been filed.

“That’s one of the downsides of [my] experience in SG,” Gardner said. “Any single piece of evidence or legislation with my name on it over the last three years, people can interpret it and use it against me.”

Gardner said he wants to keep this issue positive and reaffirmed that he wants the election to be decided by students, not a court.

Election Supervisory Board vice-chair Truc Nguyen said the next few weeks are being treated as a run off election period and the ESB meets every Thursday to decide whether to extend the period. With this in place, presidential candidates John Lawler and Thor Lund will be allowed to spend an extra $150 each week the election is postponed in addition to their $900 spending limit. Both Lawler and Lund are allowed to campaign until the Travis County court sets an election date.

Leo Barnes, UT associate vice president for legal affairs, is representing UT in the lawsuit and said the administration is working through Assistant Attorney General Daniel Perkins.

“The administration is not taking sides as far as the students,” Barnes said. “We don’t want to appear to have favoritism. The elections are of the students, by the students and for the students, and that has been important.”

Barnes said the administration is willing to work with Gardner and Guevara to discuss options and develop an agreement. Lawler testified at the case’s initial hearing last week and said he did not have the financial resources to run a campaign for two more weeks. He said extending the election is giving those who have more money and resources an unfair advantage.

“The document illustrates the absurdity that this case represents,” Lawler said. “I have always encouraged everyone to pour over my record and to test me on my record and test my opponents records as well.”

Lawler said he is focusing on social media, making a video and tabling on the West Mall to save money this week.

Lund said he is planning on campaigning throughout the week and that the burden does not stop at finances.

“I’m trying to keep up with all my school work as well,” Lund said. “Can I afford to focus all my attention on this and still maintain my grades in rigorous engineering courses? We’ll have to see. But I am a student first and my scholarship money depends on my GPA.”

Printed on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 as: