Zearley wins close MSA contest

Jens Krogstad

In a private room at Campus Pizza, approximately a dozen people mobbed Tom Zearley and Amy Jo Pierce to congratulate them on their Minnesota Student Association presidential win.

In a tight undergraduate race, Zearley and Pierce garnered 991 votes out of 4,420 for president – or approximately 22 percent. They beat Ashley Sierra and Chris Montana by 77 votes.

An MSA constitutional amendment to use instant runoff voting in next year’s presidential race passed by a comfortable margin of 76 percent.

More than 1,300 additional students voted this year than last, with a 4,634 total this year in the all-campus election.

After the initial excitement at the Zearley camp, almost everyone dialed their cell phones, including Pierce, who wiped away tears.

“Tom Zearley is our next student body president!” campaign manager Aaron Solem, yelled repeatedly.

At 6:55 p.m., a ring sounding like a loon’s call – Zearley’s tribute to his Detroit Lakes, Minn., hometown – came from his cell phone.

Everyone in the room held their breath and Solem chomped on his thumb like it was a piece of meat.

Keeping a poker face, Zearley calmly asked for the results to be repeated.

“Express something!” yelled supporter Amanda Hutchings.

Zearley milked the suspense for all it was worth, telling everyone the margin of victory before making them guess who won.

At the Sierra-Montana camp, campaign manager Andy Pomroy took the call while both candidates were out getting a grill for a barbecue at Montana’s apartment.

Sierra, on the phone with her dad after getting the news, reacted in frustration.

“We lost by, like, 40 Ö to a stupid boy!” she said. “I would have been, like, the third woman president ever.”

Montana said losing by such a slim margin made it especially tough.

“It’s nice to know it was that close, but it does make it worse,” he said. “Ultimately, Zearley’s a good guy and he’ll do good job.”

While waiting for the phone call in the back room at Annie’s Parlour in Dinkytown, presidential candidate Mike May showed little emotion.

May picked at his basket of fries, but running mate Kevin Wendt was a little more relaxed as he wolfed down a BLT sandwich.

When May received the call telling him that he had finished third, he once again showed little emotion as eight of his close supporters looked for any indication on his face.

“I’m happy with the results,” May said about Zearley’s win. “Tom will do an outstanding job as president.”

May and Wendt said they were glad all the campaigning was finally over so they could get some rest.

“The last three days all seemed to run into each other,” May said. “It just seemed like one long day.”

Presidential candidate Brian Adamovich finished fourth.

“It’s rough, but Tom and Amy Jo fought a good fight and they deserve the win as much as anyone,” Adamovich said.

Vice presidential candidate Betsy Raguse, who ran with Thomas Rupp and placed fifth, said she does not regret campaigning so much that she averaged two to four hours of sleep per night in the week preceding the election.


Raguse said Zearley and Pierce have been very dedicated MSA members.

“They told people they’re going to do a lot for students, and I hope they can accomplish that,” Raguse said.

Presidential candidate Jason Will placed sixth.

“Congratulations to Tom,” Will said. Because of all-day National Guard duty, presidential candidate Bob Gindorff, who came in seventh, did not have time for last-minute campaigning.

He said he is hopeful Zearley and Pierce – who are sophomores – will accomplish a lot, but said he is concerned about their limited MSA experience.

“They have good intentions, but by themselves I don’t think they’ll accomplish much,” Gindorff said. “With the right help, they have the chance to do a lot of good.”

– Patricia Drey, Hank Long and Jared Roddy contributed to this report