Zearley tactics called unfair

Complaints accuse the MSA president-elect of receiving election results before voting concluded.

Jens Krogstad

At least four former candidates have filed multiple campaign complaints against Minnesota Student Association president and vice president-elect Tom Zearley and Amy Jo Pierce.

The complaints include allegations that Zearley-Pierce received voting results midelection and approached other candidates and voters with the information.

Thomas Rupp and running mate Betsy Raguse said Pierce and campaign manager Aaron Solem approached Raguse about dropping out of the race because results showed Rupp-Raguse behind.

“This action of Zearley-Pierce has affected the integrity and validity of student elections,” the complaint read, which Raguse provided for The Minnesota Daily.

Though Solem admits to fabricating election results, he said he never received real ones. He and Pierce deny asking candidates to drop out.

“I really don’t think there was any dirty campaigning,” Pierce said.

The All-Campus Elections Commission threw out two complaints because it determined the allegations did not violate campaign rules.

Commission co-chairwoman Laura Casey said it is not against campaign rules to fabricate election results and use them to campaign. She said it is also within campaign rules to ask other candidates to drop out based on false election data.

“That’s a personal choice of the person campaigning, but it doesn’t break any ACEC rule or the student conduct code,” she said.

Rupp and Raguse said they believe campaigning using real election results did occur.

The candidates also filed a complaint with the Student Activities Office alleging election commission members leaked results.

Student Activities Office Director Tony Diggs is investigating the complaint.

Solem said he never received election results from the commission because he made them up the first day of elections.

“It was a motivational tactic I used to get Tom and Amy working,” he said. “I can guarantee (the allegations) will all come back to me.”

Brian Adamovich and running mate Steve Cerny also filed complaints against the Zearley-Pierce campaign.

Cerny said a Zearley-Pierce campaign worker approached him April 21.

“Wednesday night, me and one other person were campaigning on the superblock, and between dorms someone in the Zearley-Pierce T-shirts told us we should drop out since we don’t really have a chance,” he said.

First-year Spanish student Sara Hanson said someone wearing a Zearley-Pierce T-shirt approached her the morning of April 22 while she studied on the third floor of Blegen Hall.

She said a man with a laptop encouraged her to vote for Zearley-Pierce on the computer. When she told him she planned to vote for Adamovich-Cerny, he told her she would be throwing her vote away, she said.

“He said I shouldn’t vote for Brian (Adamovich) because I should make my vote count and that he’d seen the ranking and that my vote wouldn’t count anyways,” Hanson said.

Last week, Zearley said he would never authorize using midelection results – fabricated or not – in campaigning.

“I’m not a type of guy who will win at all costs,” he said.

Adamovich said he now questions the legitimacy of the MSA elections.

“We have to start questioning even how the votes were counted,” Adamovich said. “At this point we have to even question who won.”

Former MSA presidential candidate Mike May is skeptical of the allegations, but said they should be fully investigated.

“Knowing Tom and Amy Jo, I don’t believe there was any impropriety,” he said. “But I believe it should be looked into because the integrity of the process must be maintained.”

Casey said the complaints will be made public Friday and campaign financial statements will be closed indefinitely because they are incomplete.