MSA hopefuls seek U-DFL nod

JP Leider

Students debating a presidential run for the Minnesota Student Association inevitably must decide what’s in a name.

Or, more specifically, an acronym.

For at-large representative candidates, an endorsement from a student group could spell success or sound the death knell of a campaign. History suggests endorsements might prove similarly important for presidential contenders as well.

Endorsements are on the minds of Max Page and Monica Heth, the only students to declare their candidacy thus far for MSA president and vice president, respectively.

Come this afternoon, Page and Heth will seek the endorsement of the University DFL for their campaign.

Page, an individualized studies junior and U-DFL president, and Heth, a global studies and political science junior and U-DFL treasurer, said at their campaign’s kickoff Friday that they are running on a platform of addressing textbook costs, tuition and fees reform.

Page said U-DFL endorsements for at-large and Student Senate candidates have been pretty successful, although that hasn’t been true until recently for presidential candidates.

“Last year (Emily Serafy Cox and Colin Schwensohn) were the first ticket from the mid- to late ’90s to win,” he said. “In previous years (a U-DFL endorsement) had been the kiss of death.”

However, last year’s election was a success for the U-DFL because most U-DFL-endorsed candidates won at-large representation and Student Senate seats.

While in years past the U-DFL has waited until later in the process to endorse candidates, this year is different, Page said.

“Because Monica and I are both executive board members and our materials say U-DFL-endorsed, we wanted to get that done earlier just so we could use that endorsement,” he said. “Really we didn’t think anyone else would be considered by the group.”

Should Page win the presidential position in the upcoming election, he said, he wouldn’t use the position for partisan political gain.

“Even though I’ve been a player in the U-DFL and DFL party, I promise not to use the position or MSA in general to forward any strictly political partisan goal I have,” he said. “That’s not to say I won’t work in my spare time for candidates, but it’s wrong to use the position to do (further partisan politics).”

Speaker of Forum Kevin Wendt said the force of endorsements has changed in his time at the University.

“Three years ago when I was a freshman, endorsements didn’t mean much at all from anyone,” he said. “The only major endorsement was greek endorsement and that didn’t get you very far.”

However, since the 2004 election the DFL endorsement has been important because of the U-DFL’s increased level of organization.

Wendt said he was disappointed in the U-DFL’s decision to endorse candidates so early.

“A lot of people are going to see the U-DFL endorsement for Max and Monica as a scare tactic,” he said.

In the past, Wendt said, groups waited until later in the election process so they had the ability to say anyone running can seek endorsement.

MSA President Emily Serafy Cox said should any partisan group be successful in an election, it doesn’t mean MSA would turn into a partisan group.

“Forum is not going to endorse candidates or work on behalf of any candidate’s campaign, no matter if everybody in forum is a Republican or a Green,” she said. “In that sense, Forum will never be a partisan body because we are not going to engage in partisan politicking.”

Given the organization’s success in elections, it’s feasible U-DFL could succeed again this year, she said.

“It’s quite possible that U-DFL-endorsed candidates will be a majority on Forum, but that doesn’t mean Forum will become a U-DFL sister organization, just as the state Senate is not a sister organization to the state DFL party just because there is a majority of DFL-endorsed candidates,” she said.

For years, beginning in the late 1990s, MSA was overtly partisan, and it hurt the organization’s creditability, Wendt said.

He said regardless of the outcome in April’s election, he doesn’t see a loss of MSA’s credibility the next year.

However, should any one group hold majority on MSA for several years, it could become an issue, he said.

Eric Ling, chairman of the All-Campus Election Commission, said the commission’s goal is to encourage students to get to know each candidate, but that it is up to each student group to run their election as they see fit.

MSA’s choice to use endorsements in general and on the ballot means they think it’s the legitimate way of running their election, and the commission is “not going to question that,” he said.