Believin' in Stephen

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Stephen Lecce

Justin Wu

As his team shouted, “We want Lecce” and “Lecce, Lecce, Lecce” to the tune of the olé chant, Stephen Lecce sat stoic awaiting the announcement of the USC presidential election.

Palpable tension erupted into a frenzy as Lecce’s name was called. He threw his arms up victorious as the mob of supporters swallowed him in a mass of screams and hugs.

Lecce, a clear frontrunner from the start of the race ran away with the election.

He won the USC presidency decisively with 3,932 votes " roughly 2,000 votes over second place candidate Ryan Gauss, who garnered 1,272 votes.

Voter turnout was down from last year’s USC election, which saw 7,429 voters cast ballots. This year 6,898 students voted.

Joseph Cariarti, chief returning coordinator, said voter turnout was down a little from last year and that it could be attributed to the fact students did not remember their PIN numbers, which they needed to vote.

“The turnout wasn’t as good as we had hoped for, but I think students had their voices heard.”

Christan Mariyanayagam's reaction - Photo by Jonas Hrebeniuk

Lecce was elated with the result. “I feel really, really good. I’m really proud about it,” Lecce said. “Thanks to everyone who voted.”

Lecce, a fourth-year political science student, spent the last two years on the USC as a senator. He also served as a social science councillor and a residence councillor for Essex Hall. He was a three-time social science soph and financial aid commissioner.

Lecce’s platform focused on student finances, the environment and USC accessibility for students. His initiatives included small changes such as free hot water in the Spoke Lounge and outdoor movie nights to concrete ideas on University Community Centre renovations and reducing textbook costs. His platform was well researched and achievable.

A consummate politico, he sometimes came across as too polished and scripted, but his passion for Western clearly helped him secure votes.

Gauss said he saw Lecce’s victory coming, but that the election was a great ride that changed his life.

“This is absolutely amazing and that I finished second and that over a thousand students felt that I was worthy to be a candidate is absolutely amazing,” Gauss said.

Ryan Gauss's reaction - Photo by Jon Purdy

He attributed his presidential run to his campaign team and thanked them profusely.

“I congratulate Stephen Lecce. I hope that he does a great job next year and he fulfills his promises to Western students.”

As for whether the USC has seen the last of Gauss, he said, “This is my swan song ... It’s time for me to look at different adventures.”

Christan Mariyanayagam followed with 929 votes and Mitch Steinberg finished last with 499 votes " one less vote than last year’s dark horse candidate Josh Safer.

Mariyanayagam did not appear disappointed with the result, but rather gracious in defeat.

“We ran a clean campaign " we wanted this to happen [for us] ... but it went well. We’re happy for the students who voted for us, thank you so much for the support.”

Mitch Steinberg was not exactly awaiting the results with repressed anticipation. In fact, minutes before the results were announced, he excused himself to the washroom.

Arriving just on time for the announcement, Steinberg said the results were exactly what he expected. Although he said he would have liked to be president if he was elected, he admitted: “I didn’t run to win.”

Mitch
Steinberg - Photo by Malcolm Aboud

Steinberg said his reason for running was to provide students with an alternative to the usual political candidates.

With the election over and no reason to save face, Steinberg decided to let students in on a secret about Lecce.

“His whole floor, a bunch of frosh this year, actually despise the guy, because he doesn’t show up anymore to be their soph and the only time he actually showed up was when he was running for senate.

“Stephen Lecce, although he might be your president for next year, he’s not a very good soph, so who knows how dedicated the guy actually is.”

Mustang Alley plebiscite question
After all was said and done, Western student voters decided the USC operated retail store Mustang Alley should not sell cigarettes.

Though all the candidates for the USC’s top position claimed they would be voting ‘Yes’ on the question, 58 per cent of the 6,557 voters chose ‘No’ on the plebiscite question.

The ‘No’ side won a clear victory with 3,831 votes over the ‘Yes’ side, which earned 2,726.

Whether the USC will follow the non-binding resolution is yet to be seen, but councillors supporting the “No” side will be sure to have added leverage in any upcoming debates.

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