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The Daily Tar Heel

Twists de?ne race for top slot

March 3 — Throughout a prolonged seven-week campaign, student body president candidate Matt Calabria was always ready with well-measured words.

Late Tuesday night, he finally was at a loss for them.

In the conclusion to what will likely go down as one of the most heated and competitive student elections in school history, Calabria emerged the victor and will be UNC’s next student body president.

Calabria received 57.8 percent of the 6,120 votes cast, an 8 percentage point jump from his standing in the first runoff election Feb. 17, which West unofficially won by seven votes. That election was never certified because of West campaign violations.

Calabria’s supporters reacted to the results with the kind of exuberant shouts standard in the finish of a student body president race. But the cries also carried a muffled tone of relief as supporters swarmed to the front of the room to embrace their candidate.

Only seconds after the shouts began, the room was almost silent. “You’re so worried beforehand just thinking, ‘Will it ever be a reality?’ and you second-guess yourself all the time,” Calabria said of the race’s final moments. “The moment you finally know, all you can think of is that it really is the reality.”

The supporters who shared in Calabria’s victorious moment represented only a fraction of what he said were hundreds of contributors to his successful campaign. While walking to greet the bulk of that team at his campaign manager’s house, Calabria repeatedly cited his staff as the principle reason behind his win.

“These people put us over the top,” he said. “When it comes down to it, it’s the individual talents of the people you have with you. I’ll never thank them enough.”

After the results were announced, West spent several moments with some of her core supporters in the basement of Carroll Hall before emerging to thunderous cheers from the members of her staff in attendance.

She also was quick to thank her team of campaign workers and wished Calabria the best of luck in putting together his administration. “I hope the student body supports their new president,” she said. “I hope he can start the process of restoring faith in student government.”

West vowed to stay involved on campus, although she was not sure in what capacity.

The announcement of the election results was delayed for more than an hour by the men’s basketball game against Clemson University. It was a fitting end to a race that has dragged on two weeks beyond the typical lifespan of a student body president contest.

West and Calabria finished first and second, respectively, in the Feb. 10 election that featured eight candidates. That sent the two to the Feb. 17 runoff election, after which West’s narrow victory eventually was ruled tainted by the Board of Elections because West’s boyfriend Alistair Cooper, a UNC alumnus, was found guilty of maliciously soliciting votes in the Undergraduate Library computer lab during the final hour of the runoff election.

It took the board one week to reach that conclusion, during which it sorted through numerous allegations accusing both campaigns of multiple violations.

All charges against the Calabria campaign were dropped, and because West was ruled to have no knowledge of Cooper’s violations, a re-election was ordered with the West campaign losing all its remaining campaign funds.

The voter turnout was almost identical to the turnout in the original runoff election, a fact that surprised and delighted many involved in the campaigns.

Outcome aside, this election undoubtedly is one for the books in the history of UNC student self-governance. “This has truly been an historical election,” BOE Chairwoman Melissa Anderson said seconds before announcing the results. “In the end, students voices were heard.”

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