By Scott Nisley
Last week’s Meet the Candidates event suggested that the elections for student government were going by without a hitch.
But after Monday’s revelation that two of the three presidential candidates had fallen under suspension and have been barred by an elections committee from campaigning, the notion of a clean race within Rutgers-Newark’s Student Governing Association suddenly came into question.
SGA presidential candidates Daniel Rosario and Luis DePaz are still in the race, but will be unable to continue their respective campaigns until a thorough investigation is performed by SGA’s elections committee in regards to allegations concerning their behavior as of late.
The controversy began with several allegations Rosario made against his opponent DePaz during the earlier stages of the elections process.
Last week, Rosario made several statement questioning both DePaz’s campaign and character. He said that in the weeks leading up to the election, DePaz originally took part in his campaign, under the impression that he would run as the executive secretary candidate, on Rosario’s ticket. According to Rosario, after attending a few meetings, DePaz subsequently left the campaign to pursue his own agenda.
Rosario insists that DePaz joined his team as a deliberate attempt to get an insight into his political strategy, and therefore have the background and know-how to be able to effectively run against him, an allegation that his opponent has continued to deny.
“At any given point in time, I was never on his ticket,” DePaz said. “He approached me, asking me to be on his ticket, and I said I would think about it. A few days later after thinking about it, I sent him an email, saying I would not be able to commit.”
While Rosario’s statements about DePaz, in regards to his integrity or lack thereof, question his opponent’s foundation as an honest candidate, the remarks DePaz has made in response, make Rosario’s own remarks appear suspect. DePaz indicated that Rosario’s statements were lies and a malicious attempt to attack his character.
“Looking at it completely objective from the outside, he seems like he is consistently pursuing this issue is as if there’s really nothing else left to try to slander me with,” DePaz said. “He is trying to make it seem as if it’s something else. In his mind it may be true to him. But in my own opinion, the reality of it, it’s a complete fabrication.”
While DePaz has maintained that he was never a part of Rosario’s ticket, his opponent insists that any claim to the contrary is a lie.
“If that’s what he’s saying, well he’s lying,” Rosario said. “Now I’m going to call him a liar because that’s not true. I never asked him to be a part of my ticket.”
Rosario also went on to question DePaz’s integrity as a trustworthy leader.
“How do I know that he’s not doing this for the resume?” Rosario said. “How do I know that he’s not just doing this to be an opportunist? Is the campus’ future really worth having someone with that lack of integrity? You shouldn’t be a leader if you don’t have integrity.”
In light of the recent allegations, both Rosario and DePaz are currently being investigated by the elections committee, a group within SGA appointed to maintain the integrity of the election process. According to Divij Pandya, current SGA president and member of the elections committee, any false testimonies a candidate makes towards their own campaign or towards the campaign of an opponent, is a direct violation of the rules and warrants an investigation.
Pandya issued the following statement to The Observer via email in response to the recent developments:
“The allegations are being investigated by the Elections Committee. We are committed to getting to the bottom of this matter swiftly, but diligently to ensure a fair and clean election. Please understand that only two candidates from the entire candidate pool have been suspended. While our elections are ongoing, the SGA is still committed to serving the student body. We hope this situation will not discourage anyone from exercising their democratic right in electing next year’s SGA. Voting will take place during this week through your Rutgers email address. Please check your inbox frequently so that you can elect next year’s representatives.”
Eslam Abdelbasset, the other contender in the race for SGA president, has remained out of the controversy, and out of public scrutiny, expressed disappointment after learning his opponents had come under fire from the elections committee and later suspended from participating in their campaign activities.
“I would have loved to have a clean race, and I would hate for friendships to be lost over something so dismal,” Abdelbasset said. “This is definitely drama that I didn’t expect out of a college race. It feels like I’m watching an episode of House of Cards or something. Just get the negativity away from me; I don’t want to be involved with it.”
Abdelbasset’s theory is that his opponents got caught up in “the heat of the moment” and got carried away with their respective campaigns. Despite the recent allegations, Abdelbasset maintains a sense of respect for his opponents.
“I think they have passion for what they want to do, what they want to achieve,” Abdelbasset said.
“But I think they let that blind them into what they were doing right and what they were doing wrong.”