The week leading up to Wednesday and Thursday’s student body elections left a candidate for vice president disqualified, a presidential candidate forced to suspend his campaign and a full slate of candidates ordered to remove all campaign materials.
Just over a week into his campaign, vice presidential candidate Blake Kuempel was banned from running for any elected office representing the students of Sam Houston State University.
Kuempel, a senior PGA Golf Management major, was removed from the Student Government Association’s election ballot for making false remarks on his campaign’s Facebook page, according to the SGA’s Election Commission.
“What do you think is going on when the current SGA Vice President [Jacqueline Bolden] allows only HALF the time for a student body election, open for everyone, to run for office?” Kuempel’s Facebook status said. “I intend to give the students of SHSU as many opportunities to be a part of SGA and give them a voice!”
The six commissioners found Kuempel’s accusation against Bolden to be untrue and thus concluded that the remarks were “defamatory towards the current SGA Vice President’s reputation and also made the current Vice President’s reputation a subject of ridicule and embarrassment.”
The statements made against Bolden, who is also currently running for student body president, were a Class A violation of SGA’s Election Code Article VII which prohibits remarks that “will be in any way detrimental, defamatory, ridicule or embarrass any individual.”
Running on the same campaign ticket as Kuempel, SGA presidential candidate Mizraim Reyes was also found guilty of the same Class A violation for “Liking” and “Sharing” his running mate’s Facebook post, for which the Commission ordered him to cease all campaigning for office and prohibited any public soliciting of votes.
However, according to Reyes the allegations made about Bolden are in fact true and regardless the candidates have a right to say whatever they want as long as they believe it’s true and don’t make reference to a person’s legal status such as race, color, religion or sexual orientation.
“If we believe that something is true and we state that and we come to that belief, then somebody’s going to have to pry it from our cold dead hands,” Reyes said. “I believe in the First Amendment and that’s something they can’t take away from us.”
Kuempel himself was specifically told about Bolden’s involvement with the election process after he had made inaccurate and incorrect comments in an SGA meeting weeks prior but nonetheless proceeded to make the same inaccurate remarks publicly, according to Student Body President Phill Lund.
“Knowing this, the candidate still chose to speak on other candidates in an attempt to defame them with a lie,” Lund said, who also serves as the Election Coordinator.
In addition to Kuempel and Reyes, the “Raise Your Voice” campaign ticket consists of Ruben Gomez for SGA Chief of Staff and Gregory Curatola for student body Treasurer.
The Election Commission also found the full slate of candidates on the “Raise Your Voice” ticket guilty of a Class B Election Code Violation and ordered to removal all campaign materials, specifically social media, signage and handbills.
It was discovered that Curatola had sent over two dozen student organization leaders a mass email discussing various issues within the SGA and lobbied on behalf of the candidates for their votes.
Sending mass emails is explicitly prohibited in SGA’s Election Code.
Reyes, Kuempel and the “Raise Your Voice” ticket appealed the Election Commission’s sanctions to the SGA Supreme Court but due to the relatively short time before the scheduled elections, the Supreme Court was not able to establish a quorum in time.
“Therefore, by default, the decision of the lower body stands,” SGA Supreme Court Chief Justice and SHSU Vice President Frank Parker said.
The SGA elections will run from April 13 through April 14. Ballots will be emailed to all students via their student email address.