After a six-month delay, the saga of the election for the statewide executive board of the California College Republicans (CCR) has finally come to an end...for now.
The election for 13 positions was originally to be held in San Jose back in April, but was delayed dramatically due to parliamentary procedure and back-and-forth debates on contentious motions that took several hours. The re-vote was eventually organized to take place on the second day of the California Republican Party (CRP) convention in Anaheim over the weekend; the election was set to take place from 4:30 to 10 PM on Saturday, October 21st. The six-month delay resulted in a massive decrease in delegate turnout - compared to the 239 delegates who voted in April’s convention, only 152 voted in the October session.
The election was between two slates: The “outsider” slate Rebuild CCR, focused more on grassroots activism on campuses, and the “incumbent” slate Thrive CCR, focused more on traditional campaigning tactics to elect Republicans to office. Rebuild was led by UC Irvine senior and Breitbart contributor Ariana Rowlands, while the Thrive slate was led by USC graduate Leesa Danzek.
The saga was captured in a dramatic Facebook live video lasting just over two hours, broadcast from Rebuild’s Facebook page. The session began at 6 PM, after the registration of delegates took an hour-and-a-half. On the floor of the convention hall, there were several even more contentious motions, particularly regarding whether or not Danzek, as a candidate, needed to be removed as presiding officer due to a conflict of interest. Danzek, who had been Co-Chair in the previous administration, ascended to the office of Chair after former Chairwoman Ivy Allen of Pepperdine resigned in August. Tensions rose when Danzek threatened to have Rowlands removed from the floor by the sergeant-at-arms, and then threatened to call hotel security. When Danzek ordered her removal after several warnings, Rowlands refused and asked all of the pro-Rebuild delegates to stand up with her. Then, RNC Committeeman Shawn Steel - who has played a direct role in overseeing the election negotiations since April - came into the room and declared, to cheers and applause: “You’re not going anywhere, Ariana!”
After this exchange lasted about 45 minutes, the motion was ultimately overruled by Danzek without a vote. Rowlands then motioned that some delegates who were denied access to the floor due to technicalities be recognized and allowed to take part in the vote. Danzek overruled this motion as well, despite Rowlands citing a motion that had previously been approved in April allowing these delegates - who had been similarly denied back then - to take part. With that, Danzek declared that voting would begin for the top position of Chair. Delegates held up their cards for counting by the secretary. From a first glance, it appeared that the election would be close.
With a tally of 88 - 64, Rowlands was declared the winner; those who were waiting outside the convention hall erupted into applause at the news. Rebuild subsequently swept all of the major statewide positions of Administrative Vice Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer.
Nevertheless, despite claiming the biggest prize, complications still arose for the insurgent slate. In the race for the second-highest position of Co-Chair, Danzek suddenly declared that Rebuild nominee Christian Chacon (from College of the Sequoias) was “ineligible,” and thus declared that the Thrive nominee Nick Steinwender (from Cal Lutheran) won by default. She then made a similar declaration in the race for Bay Area Vice Chair, calling Rebuild nominee Justin Azzarito (from Santa Clara University) “ineligible” as well and thus giving the position to Thrive nominee Andrei Satchlian (who currently attends American University in Washington, D.C., and thus was not present at the convention). When both Chacon and Azzarito objected, Danzek stated that they had apparently not submitted the proper paperwork in time; both candidates, and other delegates on the floor, quickly said that they had evidence to prove that they had done so, in the form of sent emails. Danzek repeatedly overruled all of these points, declared the conversation over, and eventually threatened to remove people who kept bringing the matters up.
In addition, the Rebuild nominee for San Diego Vice Chair, Gregory Lu (from UC San Diego), told The Millennial Review that he was robbed of a fair election for that seat as well. Danzek claimed that under the leadership of Chairman Nithin Mathew - who chaired CCR in the 2013 - 2014 academic year - a constitutional amendment was made during his tenure “that separated [the] San Diego region from [the] Southern Region,” thus making it a separate elected position rather than an appointed position. However, such an amendment does not exist in the constitution, which instead says that San Diego County falls under the jurisdiction of the Southern Region Vice Chair (that race went to Rebuild nominee Noah Ritter, of Orange Coast College). Thus, Lu ran under the assumption that it was an appointed position, while Danzek said he did not submit the necessary paperwork to run as a candidate. As a result, Danzek declared that position too went by default to the Thrive candidate, Joshua Leibiwitz (from CSU San Marcos), who was also not in attendance at the convention.
Thus, at the end of the election, these contested races and a handful of one-sided races led to a nearly evenly-divided board: Rebuild won 6 positions to Thrive’s 7, as Rebuild dominated the top of the slate but lost most of the regional vice chair positions. Although Rowlands, as the Chair, has the sole discretion to appoint additional board members, only those original 13 have voting power.
As the election came to a close, Rowlands delivered her first remarks as the new Chairwoman of the California College Republicans, saying that “as we move forward, I hope to lead a California College Republican organization that is full of integrity and accountability.”
Despite the attempt at unity, Thrive supporters expressed dissatisfaction with the result. One Thrive candidate who lost, Andrew Mendoza of UC Davis, threatened to leave the organization in protest and called the new leadership “abhorrent.”
Nevertheless, Rowlands and her new team have vowed to make serious changes to how CCR is run. UC Irvine student and Rebuild’s designated Parliamentarian Kimo Gandall declared that such an election debacle “can never happen again.” He also said that “CCR has a long road to procedural reform...I am excited to work with the new CCR Executive Board on these issues.”
Rowlands, speaking exclusively to The Millennial Review, had this to say:
“People always told me to take what was given to me, even if it wasn’t fair or wasn’t right, and I rejected that. Just because the system is the way it is doesn’t mean the system has to be the way it is. Me and my team stood up for what was right in the face of a lot of pushback from all sides. But our message connected with the people, our faith in that connection and in the people never waived. And the people won.”
Below is a full list of the results for the CCR statewide executive board, with notes: (R) indicates a Rebuild candidate, and (T) indicates a Thrive candidate. “ * ” indicates a candidate who has since graduated and thus is currently not affiliated with a university. “Won by default” indicates a race where the nominee of the other party had been removed from the slate prior to the election, thus turning a contested election into a default victory. “Disputed” indicates results that were contested and not actually voted upon by the delegates, which Rowlands may challenge as Chair.
California College Republicans Statewide Executive Board, 2017 - 2018:
Chair: Ariana Rowlands of UC Irvine (R)
Co-Chair: Nick Steinwender of Cal Lutheran (T - disputed)
Administrative Vice Chair: Troy Worden of UC Berkeley (R)
Secretary: Leslie Garcia of UC Santa Barbara (R)
Treasurer: Thomas Columbus of USC (R - won by default)
Northern Region Vice Chair: Hunter Garrison* (T - ran unopposed)
Capital Region Vice Chair: Mason Daniels of Sacramento State (T)
Bay Area Region Vice Chair: Andrei Satchlian of American University (T - disputed)
Central Coast Region Vice Chair: Katherine Rueckert of Cal Poly SLO (R)
Central Valley Region Vice Chair: Samantha Emerson of College of the Sequoias (T - won by default)
Los Angeles Region Vice Chair: Favian Fragoso of Citrus College (T)
Southern Region Vice Chair: Noah Ritter of Orange Coast College (R)
San Diego Region Vice Chair: Joshua Leibiwitz of CSU San Marcos (T - disputed)