Standard campaign tactics usually don’t involve wearing a Pikachu onesie or using memes to persuade voters, but that’s exactly what Student Government Association (SGA) presidential candidate Yousef Al-Khudairi did. It’s hard to say it didn’t work: Montclair State students delivered a surprise victory for Al-Khudairi, who was elected SGA president by a margin of 13 votes on Wednesday.
SGA Legislator Jean Camacho, who unsuccessfully ran for SGA president last year, sat on Al-Khudairi’s immediate right during the SGA’s legislative meeting and covered his mouth in disbelief as the election results were read. Al-Khudairi looked astonished. During a brief recess, Al-Khudairi’s emotions spilled into the hallway as people came to congratulate him.
Al-Khudairi let out an elated, drawn-out “What?” in the hallway and then said, “Yo, I was so scared. Yeah, I really didn’t think I was going to win.”
Did the memes and dressing up as Pikachu help Al-Khudairi win?
“Dude I think it really did,” Al-Khudairi said. “This is really crazy.”
James Clark ran unopposed and was elected vice president. Jason Liskoff defeated James Carolan and was elected treasurer, and Karmyn Ramirez defeated Michael Statile and was elected secretary. Clark, Liskoff and Ramirez will join Al-Khudairi in the fall semester as the SGA’s 2017-18 executive board.
This election, 1,203 undergraduate students voted online and in on-campus polling locations in the SGA election – about 7 percent of the undergraduate population.
In addition to voting for next year’s SGA executive board candidates, undergraduate students were also asked to vote on a referendum question asking if they were in favor of adding a plant-based/gluten free section in Sam’s Place or Freeman Hall. Just over 80 percent of students voted in favor of the measure.
The SGA held a candidates debate on March 30 ahead of the SGA elections on April 3-5. The candidates elaborated on their platforms and had the opportunity to answer questions from students.
“I think that recently the SGA has been working for itself,” Clark, who ran unopposed for vice president, said. “As an organization, it’s been running to benefit the organization, not the organizations that it’s founded on.”
Liskoff, who was elected SGA treasurer on Wednesday, emphasized increasing student involvement and said he would look into increasing the book grant and scholarship lines of the SGA budget. Newly-elected SGA Secretary Karmyn Ramirez said during the debate that she would be “a voice for the voiceless” and would digitize more documents and move them onto an online platform like Google Drive.
Al-Khudairi, Clark, Liskoff and Ramirez will be at the helm of the SGA’s $1.7 million operating budget next year. Over 90 percent of the undergraduate population didn’t vote, however, and some might not know Al-Khudairi. But, Al-Khudairi described himself to those who are unfamiliar with him.
“I’m a man of curves, no I’m just kidding,” Al-Khudairi joked. “I’m a pretty lax kind of guy, I do really have a good sense of humor. I’ll just stop to have a conversation anywhere, anytime. If anyone ever wanted to speak or wanted know more about the SGA or just shoot the s**t, feel free to come up to me and talk to me.”