By Adam Baker/News editor
Prior to the Student Government Association elections SGA hoped voter turnout would reach at least 2,000 votes this year. Students surpassed SGA’s goal with a turnout of 2,341 – nearly 50 percent more than last year. Lance Melching and Colmon Elridge were elected president and executive vice president, respectively, with 959 votes.
“This is the No. 1 turnout that we have records for,” said Joshua Davis, chairman of elections.
Davis said “having candidates that cared about student government and igniting a fire under the student body” contributed to the large turn out.
Mike Regale, associate vice president of Student Affairs and SGA adviser, agreed the quality of candidates caused students to turn out in big numbers.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “I think that shows there is commitment.”
Current SGA President Kristina O’Brien said this year there were more people running for positions than ever before.
“I think the more people that you get involved that want to run for positions, the larger outreach you’re going to have on students to come vote as well,” she said.
Melching struggled to hold back tears Tuesday night when O’Brien announced he would replace her next year.
He immediately buried his face in his hands and began dialing friends and family on his cell.
“The first person I called was my girlfriend and my parents, then my brother,” he said.
Melching, who will also serve as Student Regent on Eastern’s Board of Regents, said his grandfather was also on his mind.
“Part of the Moberly Building is named after him and apparently one thing he always wanted was to be a Regent,” he said. “He died when I was in middle school. He and and I were really close and we always came to Eastern games growing up.”
When he called his mother to tell her he had won, he said she told him “Grandpa’s real proud of you right now.”
Melching added his supporters throughout the election were “amazing.”
“I owe this election to all of them,” he said. “The turnout is incredible, it’s absolutely stunning. With those 2,000 votes (students) absolutely validated (SGA) for the next year.”
Melching said he has never seen so much publicity about an SGA election.
“Everybody was trying to get everyone out to vote,” he said.
The easy part, Melching said, is now over.
“We made a lot of promises on the campaign trial and now it’s time to start making them happen,” he said.
O’Brien said Melching, who currently serves as her executive vice president, “absolutely deserves” the position.
“Lance has had to do things my way for a year and a half, and it’s about time he gets to do things his way without me giving him too much advice,” she said. “I’m so happy for him – I know he will do a fabulous job.”
Elridge, Melching’s running mate, was watching “West Wing” when the Melching/Elridge campaign manager called to tell him the news.
“I screamed bloody murder and thought oh my gosh,” he said.
Elridge said the record voter turnout was one of the goals of his and Melching’s campaign.
“This campaign was about empowering students to vote and bringing SGA back to students, and that just shows there is a desire out there to be involved,” he said. “We just have to do a better job of engaging the student body.”
Elridge explained his sister was also elected executive vice president at Transylvania University.
“It’s like a little Elridge dynasty,” he said, laughing. “It’s like the Kennedy’s only there’s two of us and we’re black.”
Melching and Elridge defeat J.C. Young and Amy Jo Smith, 852 votes, and Craig Pike and Susan DeHart, 443 votes. Young explained he wasn’t disappointed he lost because he learned a lot from the campaign.
“It’s been very eventful and stressful,” he said.
Young said he is now debating whether or not to attend graduate school.
“I’ve got some big decisions to make in the coming weeks,” he said.
Pike said he was somewhat disappointed he did not win, but thought the most qualified candidate won.
“I’m just excited that so many people turned out (to vote),” he said. “It’s a sneak peak at a bright future at SGA here at Eastern.”
Pike said even though he lost, he still plans to contribute in some way to SGA
Other top SGA election spots included vice president of the Student Activities Council and vice president of the Residence Life Council. Jeff Conner, Residence Life Council vice president-elect, said he was “super excited” to find out he won.
“I was really honestly surprised,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to a great year.”
Lindsey Baker was elected vice president of SAC with 1,147 votes – more votes than any other candidate in the election.
“I feel very blessed that many people think I would do a good job,” she said. “I am really excited and doubly motivated now.”
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