Election results: ‘A long time coming’

Branden Yates and Maddie Forrest prepare to take office after winning Student Senate election

More stories from Rachyl Houterman


Photo by Gabbie Henn

Student Body President-elect Branden Yates and Vice President-elect Maddie Forrest won nearly 76 percent of the vote in this year’s Student Senate elections.

Just before the Student Senate election results were announced, Student Body President-elect Branden Yates and Vice President-elect Maddie Forrest — then just candidates in the race — retreated to an off-campus location and turned off their phones.

It was a time to reflect, Forrest said, on what went well and what could have been improved in their two-and-a-half-week campaign for the student body presidency and vice presidency. They knew if they didn’t do it before the results were in, they never would, Forrest said.

“That kind of helped us prepare for right now but also jobs in the future,” Forrest said, “when we’re thinking about how we can use the skills that we learned just from those two and a half weeks of campaigning.”

When the results revealed them as the winners — attaining nearly 76 percent of the casted votes — they were excited, Yates said. They had been preparing their campaign since November 2017.

“It’s been a long-time coming,” Forrest said of their recent victory.

Not only did they beat their opponents, Robert Nguyen and Hattie Salzman, but all students on their ticket, with the exception of two — Austin Gulbrandson and Clare McCarty —  were elected to seats on Senate.

“It’s extremely exciting,” Yates said. “I can’t wait to work with all of them. There’s a reason we picked those 19 people for off-campus and 6 people for on-campus because we believe they can represent the student body in the best way possible.”

Three “write-in” on-campus senators accepted their nominations as well: Justin Vue, the current Senate equity director of the Equity in Student Matters Commission, Kristy Miller and Alyssa Pake.

“With that being said, I’m excited to work with everyone who got elected,” Yates said. “I think we have a really, really good group of senators who are dedicated, and that’s important.”

The election experienced a 24 percent voter turnout, a large number compared to sister institutions such as UW-Madison, which only drew 6 percent of its student body to the polls in its most recent student government elections.

As of now, Yates and Forrest are busy preparing to take office next week Monday after they’re sworn in at the Senate’s general meeting. Meeting with faculty, administration and state officials is a priority during the transition phase, Forrest said, but there are also tangible tasks such as the transit contract with the city and the UW System restructuring that will require attention as soon as they take office.

“Right away we need to negotiate a new transit contract which is paid for through student segregated fees,” Yates said. “That is an ongoing negotiation process that is already started, and they’ll look to Maddie and I to finish that up.”

Another issue to be tackled is the Public Good Order ordinance, which won’t be voted on by City Council until sometime in the summer. Because it will be voted on when most students won’t be in Eau Claire, Yates said it will be their job to be here and advocate for students. Yates sits on the ad-hoc committee for the ordinance.

Yates and Forrest will continue to place an emphasis on transparency and accountability during their time in office, along with improving communication inside and outside of Senate. Forrest said ensuring the senators are able to communicate ideas in a respectable manner is important because that reflects how they speak to peers outside of Senate.  

As they did during the campaign, the pair want to continue to strengthen the bond between Senate and student organizations by having regular face-to-face meetings with different organizations.

“We aren’t the same university without having student orgs on campus, and that is what enhances our student life,” Forrest said. “It’s not always inside the classroom. A lot of the enhancements come outside the classroom.”

Delegating some of these tasks to senators in the 62nd Session of Senate will be important, Yates said, because of the large number of organizations on campus.

“I’ve seen a lack of dedication and a lot of stuff fall on the exec board and president and vice president’s plate,” Yates said. “I think it’s our goal to delegate a little bit of the tasks, so senators get more involved, and since they’ll be more involved, they’ll be more dedicated.”

Yates and Forrest will be sworn in next Monday. Executive board appointments will occur the following Monday.