Judge to determine Gardner and Guevara’s candidate status on March 26

Jody Serrano

The student body may be one step closer to electing its Student Government leaders these next few weeks. A Travis County judge will decide on Monday, March 26 whether former presidential candidate Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara will be put back on the ballot.

Students elected the new SG General Assembly in the Feb. 29 and March 1 campus-wide elections with the exception of the president and vice president positions. Until students elect a new president and vice president, current SG president Natalie Butler, vice president Ashley Baker and their executive board will preside over the new assembly. Baker said the lack of a president and vice president will make transition into a new year different and will require additional preparation, but will not affect the assembly.

According to the SG Constitution, the president and vice president serve one-year terms beginning the first Tuesday of April and are required to stay in office until their replacements are elected.

Gardner filed a lawsuit against UT and UTSG on Feb. 27 claiming the Election Code the Election Supervisory Board and the SG Judicial Court used to disqualify him and Guevara was unconstitutional because it violated their first amendment rights to association. The Board disqualified the pair on Feb. 23 for associating their campaign with then Student Events Center presidential candidate Carissa Kelley via their printed promotional materials, videos and on their website. Judge Tim Sulak issued a two-week temporary restraining order on the elections on Feb. 28 and UT and Gardner agreed to extend the restraining order until March 27 on Monday.

The new assembly will hold their first meeting Tuesday, April 3. At the meeting, the assembly will elect the chair of the assembly, who will preside over meetings, assign members to one of six standing committees and set meeting times and agendas. The assembly will also elect the committee chairs for Academic Affairs, External Affairs, Financial Affairs, Internal Affairs, Legislative Affairs and Student Affairs.

Baker said developing a strong transition was important to her and Butler. She said she and Matt Hicks, current chair of the assembly, have set up a retreat for the new general assembly members on April 1 to ease the transition and teach them about assembly procedure, how to write legislation and what representatives should do within their committees.

“I think [the new president and vice president] will run into issues when they appoint their executive board, executive staff and agency directors,” Baker said. “A lot of meetings with the administration happen in the summer. The beginning of term we had to decide where everyone would fit within SG.”

Baker said the first few meetings after a president and vice president are elected are usually dedicated choosing their executive board and making external appointments, including policy directors, agency directors, executive staff and external boards and committees.

She said even though the selection of the executive board – which includes the Chief of Staff, Communications Director, Internal Financial Director, Administrative Director and External Financial Director – will be held off, the lack of a president and vice president will not affect the general assembly these next few weeks. Baker said there are already a number of applicants for the executive board and students interested should apply at utsg.org.

Baker said last year more than 150 people applied for a position in SG, and she and Butler granted all of them an interview.

Matt Hicks, current chair of the assembly, said he does not think the transition and the new assembly will be hurt if the elections happen soon after the Monday’s hearing. Hicks said he will be working with Baker to make the transition easier through the new member retreat in April. He said the assembly will be able to operate normally without a new president and vice president the first few meetings.

“The assembly will still be able to operate smoothly,” Hicks said. “It all comes down to how this decision impacts the executive branch, or the programming arm of SG.”

Gardner said he is confident a decision will be made at the March 26 hearing and he hopes there will be a SG president before the assembly’s first meeting on April 3.

“We feel confident because we know our cause is just,” Gardner said. “We don’t know what will happen but we are hopeful [to be put back on the ballot] because I think we have a good case. Once people hear our story they will think the same way and a judge will as well.”