By Michael Wunder, Michael Wunder News Editor
UNO voters made their voices heard Tuesday, electing junior political science major Liz O’Connor as UNO student body president/regent and her running mate senior sociology and political science major Bret Harrell as vice president. The duo defeated opponents Ryan Tefft, a senior geology major, and Eric Hansen, a senior accounting major, by a 727 to 326 margin.
O’Connor, formerly a sophomore class senator and Speaker of the Senate, was visibly giddy making rounds in the Milo Bail Student Center Fireplace Lounge to congratulate her fellow Student Government members.
“I am so excited,” O’Connor said. “It’s kind of surreal, actually.”
Tefft attended the announcement of the results but left hurriedly, though he did extend congratulations to his opponents on his Facebook page.
“Thank you everyone for your support over the past couple of weeks,” he wrote. “Let me be the first person to congratulate Elizabeth O’Connor and Bret Harrell as UNO’s new student body president and vice president.”
O’Connor did not expect to win by such a large margin.
“I think both Ryan and I ran really good campaigns,” she said.
Vice President-Elect Harrell credited student organizations and a strong platform to his and O’Connor’s victory.
“We had a lot of good feedback from every organization we hit up,” he said. “We also had a very student-oriented platform.”
O’Connor and Harrell will focus first on their number one platform issue, which is publishing elements of professor evaluations online as a resource for students. After that, they hope to accomplish their goals quickly.
“We want to get a lot of our projects done in the summer,” O’Connor said. “That way they don’t end up [at the] last minute and not getting done.”
Thirty senator seats were also available in the election, but only 21 were filled.
Dylan Kriz and Sahil Khullar won senior class seats, Anna Berg and Michael Fryman took junior class seats and Sean Robinson and Alex Bakke were elected for sophomore class seats.
Martha Spangler, Jennifer Nguyen, Terrence Batiste, Stephanie Hoffman and Ankit Agrawal won Arts and Sciences senator seats. Seth Jones, Vanessa Torres and Ryan Kahanca filled the Business Administration seats. Devin Bertelsen and Tatiana Eskridge were elected College of Fine Arts and Media senators. Kyle Schulze was elected senator for the College of Public Affairs and Community Service. Troy Becker took the Engineering seat, Justin Roberts took the IS&T seat and Tyler Gatrost was elected to the University Division seat.
Turnout was high, with 1,096 students voting in the elections. Last year’s elections saw record numbers near 1500, said Assistant Director of Student Government Agencies Ben Jager.
“I think with a change in the voting season, weather, not a full ballot of candidates and one day of voting compared to two, it’s still a good turnout,” he said. “Any time you crack 1,000, we’re happy with it.”
The number of voters excited Sen. Batiste, who was re-elected to his seat.
“I feel fantastic about the senate,” he said. “I’m especially energized and intrigued about the turnout tonight.”
President-Elect O’Connor, too, was pleased with the turnout.
“It’s kind of all a blur right now,” she said. “But I just want to thank everyone who came out to vote. Participation is really what ends up making an election good.”
Also on the ballot were three referenda regarding allocating student fee income. One called for approval of the allocation of a portion of student fees toward the Gateway, another for the allocation of a portion of student fees in support of Maverick Productions and the third for the allocation of a portion of student fees for Student Government Officer salaries. The allocations for the Gateway and Maverick Productions were approved.
The president-elect and vice president-elect will take office April 18 with all other senators taking office April 21.