Candidates’ absence turns UCF SGA presidential debate into open forum

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The third UCF SGA debate turned into an open forum for presidential candidate Josh Boloña and running mate Jad Shalhoub, who were the only two to attend.

Karen Caudillo and Theressa Tong said they could not participate in the debate Monday because Caudillo was sick.

“I think I have the stomach flu,” Caudillo said. “At the end of the day, we can only serve the student body if we are well. We are passionate about the issues Knights are facing and look forward to finishing strong.”

The runoff election was announced March 7 when none of the candidates were able to reach at least 50 percent of the vote plus one vote to win the election. Brad Kuehler and Breon Clark lost to Caudillo and Tong by five votes and are no longer in the running.

Tong said she couldn’t go to the debate to represent her and Caudillo’s campaign on her own.

“If there are certain questions thrown at us, there are things that Karen just knows a lot more about, and I trust her on giving the most accurate information,” Tong said.

Though Caudillo and Tong were absent, the UCF Election Commission members still proceeded with questions directed toward Boloña and Shalhoub.

“Regardless if one party does not show up, we still need some sort of function today,” Assistant Supervisor of Elections Jamal Mays said. “If they want their own open forum for themselves, that is for them to reach out to us.”

Around 20 people showed up to the event in the Cape Florida Ballroom in the Student Union to hear Boloña and Shalhoub speak.

Boloña and Shalhoub recalled the 2017 election they lost to Nick Larkins and Cristina Barreto when asked about this year’s runoff election announcement.

“Last time we heard the result of the election, we lost so it was a step in the right direction,” Shalhoub said.

Shalhoub said he felt sympathy and nostalgia when hearing about Kuehler and Clark’s loss.

When asked what advice they would give the winning candidates if the duo loses, Boloña emphasized accountability in a leadership role.

“Have the president and vice president hold each other accountable if, at any point throughout that year, the other believes they are compromising,” Boloña said.

Shalhoub’s advice focused on good ways to lead and work with others.

“I think my bit of advice would be to keep an open mind and listen to the people around you and never forgetting the journey you traveled or where you came from,” Shalhoub said.

Though most questions steered toward the candidates’ personal lives and not their platform, several questions focused on their next steps if elected.

“Selecting the Cabinet is going to be a huge thing,” Shalhoub said. “I think the most effective thing is to put all [the] preliminary energy into a team and then allow for the team to work on the issues.”

In a closing statement, Shalhoub reiterated their campaign’s intentions.

“Our focus was never to jump on another candidate or attack another candidate,” Shalhoub said. “Our focus was always to highlight what we saw in ourselves. We want to show students why we are best for them, not why we are better than [other candidates].”

Students can vote for the UCF SGA presidential runoff election on March 19 through March 21 on My.UCF.edu.