Swamp Party sweeps UF student government election


Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 2:18 a.m.

Mo Shatara had to lean in close just to hear. The patio outside the Orange & Brew was crammed with Swamp Party and Students Party representatives. It was close to midnight during the University of Florida’s Student Government spring election Wednesday, and everyone was anxious. Results would be announced any minute.

“Let’s hope the students get what they deserve this time around,” Shatara said. A Students Party victory could drastically affect Student Government politics, the UF junior said. But before he could continue, a cry rose from the crowd.

Election supervisor Stephen Davis had arrived, results in hand.

Shatara, 20, squirmed.

Last year, the Students Party lost the bid for the presidency by roughly 150 votes to the now-dissolved Unite Party. The year to capitalize was now.

But Davis’ words changed all that.

In its first spring-election bid, the Swamp Party captured the presidency, vice presidency, treasurer position and 37 out of 50 Student Senate seats.

By a margin of almost 3,200 votes, Swamp Party candidates Christina Bonarrigo and Joselyn Rivas won the presidency and vice presidency.

“Words cannot describe how happy and honored I am to have won,” said newly elected student body President Bonarrigo. “I campaigned my heart out, and I am so humbled by the number of students who turned out to vote.”

Swamp Party treasurer candidate Jayce Victor also won by 3,232 votes.

About 20 percent of students voted in this semester’s election, with 10,048 students showing up to the polls Tuesday and Wednesday. Students voted for president, vice president, treasurer and Student Senate candidates and one non-binding referendum on soft bar closings.

Close to 90 percent of those who cast ballots voted to allow a soft bar closing at 3 a.m. for all bars and clubs in Gainesville.

Ken Novak, a 21-year-old sports management junior, stood on the Reitz Union Colonnade and watched students celebrate below him. Cheers of “Swamp, Swamp, Swamp” echoed across the Reitz Union pond and continued past 1 a.m.

“The Swamp Party marketed themselves better than the Students Party,” Novak said. “I didn’t even know the Students Party existed until yesterday.”

The Students Party executive candidates for president and vice president were Johnny Castillo and Jenna Goldman, and the treasurer candidate was Billy Farrell. Grier Ferguson, Students Party vice president and spokesman, said the results were surprising, but that her party would continue to fight for every Gator.

“Our party was about standing up for the freedom of political speech and basic American values,” Ferguson said. “Those values aren’t present in the university and especially not in Student Government.”

She spoke with tears in her eyes.

“For us, it’s never been about a resume line,” she said. “It’s about standing up for what you believe in.”

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