The vice president runoff election this year produced a historical student government executive branch. In the final stage of the election, “Level Up’s” Shirley Gelman received 58.1 percent of the votes, defeating “All In” candidate Jason Perez and resulting in the first split ticket in 19 years.
Gelman will join president-elect Abigail Adeleke and treasurer-elect Amanda Rodriguez of the “All In” campaign. This is the first time in history that the University of Miami student government will be led by three females.
The news of an impending runoff election was announced on Feb. 21. While he celebrated his running mates’ success, Perez had to begin preparing for more campaigning. Both Perez and Gelman said they were overwhelmed at the time, but ready for the challenge.
In the first election, Perez received 16 more votes than Gelman, with 47.2 percent compared to Gelman’s 46.7 percent, while the independent candidate for vice president, Asher Walker, got four percent. However, the second time around, voters failed to turn out for Perez with the same intensity, causing Gelman to run away with the win.
Gelman won by a large margin, with a lead of 257 votes in the runoff. There was a total of 1,581 votes in the runoff, down 52 percent from the 3,270 votes cast in the first election.
When she heard the results, Gelman said she was stunned.
“I was not expecting so many students to vote again,” said Gelman, a junior majoring in international finance and marketing and management. “It still has not set in yet, but I am so excited for this upcoming year and to work with Abi and Amanda.”
Not only did students turn out less in the overall runoff, but also at much lower margins for Perez compared to the first election.
After weeks of campaigning to get Adeleke and Rodriguez elected, “All In’s” campaign manager Godard Solomon said it was difficult to continue to keep students engaged for the runoff election. He explained that students likely assumed Perez would win after the other two members of the ticket were elected, and therefore were less inclined to vote.
“A lot of students had already checked out by the time the runoff came; even supporters had already checked out by then,” said Solomon, a junior majoring in political science and public administration. He also noted that another challenge for turnout is that there were no longer incentives for students to vote, such as the free pizza, donuts and churros that had been handed out in the breezeway during the first election.
After the loss, Perez sent out a heartfelt message to his campaign team and group of more than 180 supporters thanking them for all their hard work and encouraging them to remain involved at UM and active in student government.
“Keep making change in your own part of campus because people do notice and people do care,” Perez told the group chat.
While he won’t be joining his running mates in the executive office next year as vice president, Perez said he has a lot of respect for Gelman and thinks she will do a great job.
“The freshmen of student government next year who are going to learn under her on the Freshman Leadership Council are very lucky,” Perez said.
Gelman and Perez have known each other since their freshman year when they worked alongside each other on FLC. Despite tense moments during the election when the full tickets were running, Perez said that once it was just him and Shirley in the runoff, they both ran a positive race.
The three newly-elected officers, Adeleke, Rodriguez and Gelman will make up the first ever female-led executive branch at the UM.
“This marks a special moment for strong female leadership in student government,” Adeleke said. The prospect of three women leading student government was something Gelman specifically ran on in the runoff. Gelman said she thinks this motivated even more people to vote.
Now that the elections are over, Adeleke said she is trying to move forward as one student government.
“We are no longer ‘Level Up’ or ‘All In,'” Adeleke said. “Those names are gone. I want to eliminate that as much as possible because I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t be a part of our executive board if they didn’t support our campaign.”
Treasurer-elect Rodriguez said that while she had hoped to enjoy a full-ticket win, she is excited to work with Gelman.
“[Gelman] will give another side of perspective on what problems to work on, specifically ones that the ‘Level Up’ ticket stressed throughout the campaign,” Rodriguez said.
Leading up to their inauguration at the student government banquet on April 7, the team is already getting to work. After the runoff results were announced, the three of them met to begin planning for next year. Adeleke said the team will work together on both “All In” and “Level Up” initiatives.
A few things that Adeleke said she is going to try to get done by the end of the semester include providing golf cart access for injured students, offering smoothies in the dining hall and establishing a permanent location for UThrift.
Several of the initiatives they are hoping to implement, however, were Perez’s ideas, Adeleke said. She said she hopes he stays involved in student government to help see these ideas come to fruition, but Perez said he has not yet decided his plans for senior year.