UPDATED: SGA presidential candidate releases controversial campaign videoBy Elizabeth Elkin | 02/26/2016 1:14pm
On Feb. 23, Caroline Morrison, SGA presidential candidate, posted a video to her campaign Facebook page. In the video, Morrison stated that she refused backing from the Machine and the Capstone Coalition.
The video states that both groups approached Morrison with an offer of backing. However, the Capstone Coalition posted a response to this video on their Facebook page from Chairman Ryan Campbell, saying this was inaccurate.
According to the statement, the Capstone Coalition does not offer backing to electable candidates, but offered Morrison the chance to participate in a primary election.
"We are truly offended that Ms. Morrison failed to point out this important fact in her video," Campbell's statement read. "I will not stand for an above ground organization, that has never in its existence coerced people to vote a certain way be compared with the Machine."
The Crimson White has reached out to both Morrison and Campbell. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
UPDATE (10:12 p.m., 2/23/16):
Campbell said the video Morrison released was inaccurate because it coupled capstone coalition with the Machine.
"It's unfair not only to our organization but also the candidates running, that they're compared to an organization that is historically racist, sexist and is technically a secret society," Campbell said. "We're above ground, we're source registered, our candidates are free to do as they please, and many of them support Caroline Morrison in her bid for president."
The Capstone Coalition strives to facilitate a primary for independent candidates next year, Campbell said. Campbell said this was what the Capstone Coalition invited Morrison to participate in. As many groups on campus who wanted to participate would have delegates. People would apply to run for certain positions. Through this, the group hopes to set up a democratic process for SGA elections and not back candidates, but create a system where independent students have every opportunity to run for office, he said.
The Capstone Coalition is not an established party, he said, and therefore would have no control in what happens after a candidate gets a nomination. Students would still be able to run without this nomination.
Campbell said what he sees happening in the future is three candidates running, one machine and two independents. The independents, he said, would split the vote, causing the Machine candidate to win.
"That's unfair to independents who want to run successful political campaigns," he said. "A primary process where everybody had a seat at the table would facilitate an independent candidate who's going to run."
Different groups on campus don't always communicate effectively, Campbell said.
"Essentially, we felt as though if there was a primary process, it would more clearly delineate the independent movement's focus," Campbell said.
UPDATE (1:30 p.m., 2/24/16):
Morrison said the offer of backing she talked about in the video referred to a meeting she had in August with Patrick Fitzgerald, a Capstone Coalition-backed presidential candidate, in which he asked her to run on his ticket as his executive vice president. In addition, she said, throughout the semester, different Machine representatives approached her about receiving backing from the Machine.
She made it clear she was not interested in backing by the Machine and considered Fitzgerald's offer, Morrison said.
"I thought about it for a couple weeks, talked to several different people involved with Capstone Coalition, talked to Patrick a few times, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized our platforms were different enough to where I felt like my vision for campus was different," Morrison said. "That's not a critique on the organization at all, but I felt like I needed to establish myself."
The idea of a primary was discussed after this, Morrison said. She knew, however, that it wasn't an option for this election.
"It was kind of something they threw around the idea of, but it would have been early campaigning and would have broken the Elections Board rules," she said.
Morrison released a statement on her campaign Facebook page saying she was not backed by any secret societies. This, she said, was in response to comments on her initial video saying members of her campaign were backed by a secret society she'd never even really heard of.
"Because individual members who were supporting me were attacked, I felt it necessary to have a published post to defend the people who were supporting me and also to make it very clear that the whole purpose of my running is a campaign for individuals, not a campaign for institutional support," Morrison said.
Morrison stressed that she was not in any way comparing the Capstone Coalition to the Machine, and that the overall message of the video was campus unity between all groups.
"I just said I declined a backing," Morrison said. "That's not because I belittle their efforts or what they're doing. I'm really glad that we have a competitive, fair election. I think those organizations have a lot to do with that. However, I felt it was really necessary to, when asking people to vote for me, be very transparent about what I'm running on and try to distinguish myself as an independent running."