In a competitive campaign that rivaled any sporting event their student athlete opponents had ever participated in, Chad Charton and Safa Sajadi won the Associated Students presidential and vice-presidential seats by 54 percent of the vote following last week’s runoff election.
Charton and Sajadi received 824 of the votes cast during the April 26-27 runoff, while their opponents Zachary Bates and Ana Matijasevic received 688 votes, about 46 percent of the total ballots received.
Charton heard the news of his victory Thursday night over the phone while he was at home catching up on his studies after spending two weeks campaigning. Charton said he had to convince a reluctant and admittedly nervous Sajadi to come out of her A.S. office, where she serves as attorney general, and check the official results that were posted at 10 p.m.
“I had to yell at her,” Charton said with a laugh.
Charton and Sajadi said they want to begin work immediately preparing for their first day in office on June 1, and delivering on their campaign promise to represent the entire student body.
“Safa and I have to get our calendars together,” Charton said. “(We’ll) spend the majority of the summer, hopefully, (filling) our Cabinet.”
Among the available posts Charton and Sajadi have to fill are chief of staff and directors of finance, personnel and legislative affairs. The Cabinet appointees will then have to be approved by the A.S. Senate.
Charton vowed to deliver a complete “180” to the efficiency and effectiveness of A.S.
“I’m looking forward to A.S. having a renowned and redefined presence on this campus,” Charton said.
The president-elect said he anticipates a busy summer ahead for Sajadi and himself.
“We want to train every new appointee (and) senator before the (fall) semester begins,” Charton said. “The training is probably going to be one-on-one (and) extensive.”
Charton said he also wants to give the A.S. office a “makeover,” and plans to spend his own money doing it.
“(It’s) a big mess,” Charton said. “It’s not properly set up to promote a positive working environment.”
As president of A.S., Charton will receive a stipend of $963.58 per month, and Sajadi will receive $713.56 per month.
Sajadi said she is excited to be elected vice president, but realizes she has a lot of work ahead of her.
“The work does not stop here,” Sajadi said. “I know the responsibility these positions hold.”
As vice president of A.S., Sajadi, unlike Charton, will have voting rights in the Senate.
“As (vice president), my relationship (with senators) will be on a working level,” Sajadi said.
She said she will use her experience to encourage senators to utilize their office hours and to go over financial minutes before Senate meetings so they can make better decisions regarding items they vote on.
Reaching a diverse student body with varying degrees of interest is one of the biggest challenges facing Charton and Sajadi.
“You can’t (come) across with the same message (for 32,000 students),” Sajadi said.
The two said they plan on engaging the student body on campus directly, and on attending Student Productions and Campus Entertainment events to talk to students and listen to their concerns. They said they hope to strike a communicative balance.
“You don’t want to belittle them, and you don’t want to drown them with information,” Sajadi said.
Current A.S. President Cara Keith said she thinks Charton and Sajadi’s experience in A.S. will help them take on their new positions, but said the job is different from what one anticipates.
“You can have lofty ideas abut what you want to accomplish, but the reality is, you only have a year,” Keith said, who took over as president in February, after former A.S. President Timothy Belfield resigned.
Keith said she will be meeting with Charton and Sajadi before they take office.
“I’ll tell them from my experience what worked and what didn’t,” Keith said.
Although Keith said she plans on spending next year concentrating on her studies, she said she will make herself available to Charton and Sajadi.
“I’m always just a phone call away,” Keith said.
For candidates Zachary Bates and Ana Matijasevic, losing the election was difficult.
“It’s like being an Olympian,” Bates said. “You train for a long time to go to the Olympics. You go, you don’t do as well as you wanted, and you’re in a little slump.”
Although disappointed in the results, Bates and Matijasevic said they were thrilled to make it to the runoff, and were appreciative of the “class” Charton demonstrated during the runoff.
“It was a great first (election) experience,” Matijasevic said. “I saw a lot of people (who) cared.”
Bates said the experience will help him serve as president of the Student Athlete Advisory Council. He also said he is not ruling out any future run for an A.S. position.
“The student body realized that an untapped resource has a big voice, and we may be resurfacing soon again,” Bates said.
Bates said he and Belfield, whom he considers to be a political mentor, are considering running for senatorial seats next year “to make sure the people getting into office do what they said they would do,” Bates said. “The good part of not getting elected is you have to hold those people accountable.”