A MacEwan Student Centre meeting room erupted in cheers Fri., Feb. 13 as Bryan West was named Students' Union President for the coming year.
Chief Returning Officer Shuvaloy Majumdar left the results of the presidential race until last, slowly reading off the names and totals of the bottom four candidates as they scrolled down a screen. With only West and Phil Barski of Barski's Cabinet remaining, Majumdar revealed both names to show West on top with 1,669 votes. Barski finished a close second with 1,460 votes.
"I feel fantastic. Honestly that was amazing," said West, shortly after Vice-President Operations and Finance candidate Ian Smedley smothered him with a celebratory pie. "It could have been anyone's game out there, that's what I honestly thought. So when I came in here, I was in the 'prepare yourself for a win, prepare yourself for a loss' mentality."
Barski, both the face and name of Barski's Cabinet, was visibly upset when the results were handed down, shaking a couple hands and walking out.
"It was a good race and I guess the best man won," said Barski shortly after, also offering an explanation for the loss. "Unfortunately students didn't see the work we put into this. They didn't see the organization. They judged us before we started, and that's the students' loss."
Action Party leader Andrew Simon finished third with 810 votes, while Sonja Bloomer with 515 votes, current Academic Commissioner Chris Ng with 452 votes and Michael Soron with 441 votes rounded out the six candidates.
This year's presidential race, with two candidates leading entire slates of contenders, was arguably more vicious than in previous years. This could be seen at the Mon. Feb. 9 presidential forums and in the anti-slate and anti-Barski's Cabinet campaign headed by current Vice-President Operations and Finance Gavin Preston under the banner of the four referendum campaigns he was leading.
When asked about the heated election, Barski criticized the Gauntlet.
"I think the Gauntlet's a bunch of gutless fucks," he said. "They hide behind a pen and none of them will ever amount to anything. Students are influenced by the Gauntlet. The Gauntlet's supposed to be impartial. Unfortunately, in this situation, it wasn't."
West agreed the campaigns were especially acrimonious this year, but said this wasn't unexpected.
"There was so much competition," West explained. "Everyone was running such hard campaigns, emotions ran so high. We all suffered attacks and slander, and we all suffered posters being torn down, but it comes with the territory I think. With an election like this, it's bound to happen."
West is already looking ahead to next year, even though he doesn't take office until May 1. He was optimistic, saying the key to a successful term as president, especially with five members of Barski's Cabinet on council, will be to open the lines of communication right away.
"It looks like a pretty good team," said West. "Most of those people I supported. There were quite a few people from Barski's Cabinet that did get onto council, and that's something we're going to have to deal with right off the bat. If we're going to be productive next year and get things done, we really have to be on the same page."
Soron said while he was disappointed with his loss, he was satisfied with who took the president's seat.
"I'm happy that things turned out the way they did," Soron said. "I'm pleased with Bryan and I think he can do a good job."
He also addressed Barski's loss, suggesting strategic voting against Barski may have contributed to his loss
"I'm glad Barski didn't win," said Soron. "A lot of people said West was the best chance at beating Barski. If push came to shove and it was me versus West, I think I would have had a good shot."
Bloomer was also happy with the results, but criticized the campaigns.
"I was a little disappointed with it," said Bloomer. "If we're looking out for students' best interests, we should've been a little bit better to the other candidates. Some issues weren't addressed that could have been addressed without the arguing."
Both Ng and Simon could not be reached for comment.