Last year’s Student Government Association election cycle can be summarized in three words: bribery, newcomers and disqualifications.
The elections picked up at the time of the debates when a disqualification led to a win for Kaelan Thomas for speaker of the Atlanta Senate.
Competitor Averyona Walters arrived 30 minutes late to the debate due to what she described as a “family emergency.” She appealed the election commission’s decision to disqualify her but was ultimately removed.
The Atlanta executive vice presidential debates began shortly after with a faceoff between Hamza Rahman, Gregory Wright and Jesse Calixte.
During this debate, Rahman’s past remarks of calling a former student a “daughter of a donkey” in Arabic were brought to his attention by a moderator. This led to Rahman’s public apology on the debate stage.
Wright was asked about the roles and responsibilities of EVP but chose not to respond to the question. In an article by The Signal, Wright seemed to look visibly confused by the question asked.
Finally, there was the university-wide presidential debate, which consisted of the largest candidate pool in over 10 years of SGA elections.
The candidates were a mix of students with previous SGA experience and those who were new to the organization.
Anthony Jones, Jazmin Mejia and Nashbi Grand-Jean all had prior Georgia State SGA experience, while Ira Livnat and Shay’na Fields did not.
Anthony Jones, who was a junior at the time, turned out to be one of the most controversial out of the candidates.
His campaign began with a platform of A.C.H.I.E.V.E. (Adapt, Challenge, Heights, Innovate, Engage, Variety and Effort). He sought to create more interactions with student voters by discussing potential bills with them before they were passed. Similarly, he sought to create the Pounce Convocation Walk where students would touch Pounce’s nose on the way to their convocation ceremonies.
Ira Livnat had no prior SGA experience and ran as the only freshman on the ballot. He was also the youngest candidate at 19 years old.
Livnat served as the CEO of PantherHackers, and after his time there, he wanted to increase student involvement in SGA in the same way. He also wanted to increase inter-campus transportation with bus routes between Atlanta and Perimeter campus.
Jazmin Mejia, who went on to eventually win the presidential election, was a first-generation student and heavily involved on campus. She was also the only sitting SGA senator in the presidential race.
Her priorities were to increase collaboration between student organizations in order to foster a sense of community on campus. Mejia wanted to create town halls so that there would be more communication between student constituents and SGA senators.
Shay’na Fields, like Livnat, also had no previous SGA experience. Her priorities included on-campus safety, campus cookouts and bi-monthly events to increase school spirit.
Fields founded a nonprofit called Operation 50 Speaks to help educate young adults and increase political involvement. Fields also worked with the NAACP.
Nashbi Grand-Jean, a junior at the time, was an SGA senator in 2017 and 2018. Similar to the other candidates, he wanted to make SGA more accessible to students through partnerships with campus faculty and student organizations. Grand-Jean also wanted to create new traditions to amplify school spirit.
During the debate, Jones was questioned for his removal from the Senate in the previous semester due to acquiring too many points for absences during SGA meetings. He showed the crowd a scar on his arm and said that the absences were due to a broken wrist.
Mejia was questioned for her inactivity during Senate meetings and lack of debate on the Senate floor.
Mejia and Jones made it to the election runoff after none of the candidates in the election received 51% of the vote. Similarly, neither Mejia and Jones received 15% more of the vote than the other. At the same time, a runoff for Atlanta EVP occurred between Jesse Calixte and Hamza Rahman.
Jones was unable to campaign for three days after receiving a sanction for violating the election code. However, he was still able to campaign for a portion of the voting day.
In an exclusive interview with The Signal, Newton Executive Vice President Aarjavi Patel alleged that Jones attempted to bribe her for her vote.
Under the pseudonym “Money Man Ant” on GroupMe, Jones shared images of him receiving and sending thousands of dollars through Venmo.
Patel contacted Jones to ask him about the suspicious transactions. Patel said she thought that Jones did not know who she was.
She introduced herself and asked if he was running for president. According to their text message exchange, Jones responded, “Maybe. And do you have a Venmo?”
He proceeded to say, “Tryna get you this money And if I do, y’all would vote for m (sic).”
Patel told him she would only vote for him based on his goals for his presidency.
The next day, Patel received a notification that someone sent her $100. Jones told her that his friend sent to her using Bitcoin. In a panic, she deleted her Venmo account.
She communicated to him that she wanted to return the money and the two eventually met up for her to personally return the $100 in cash.
Patel was unable to provide any other documentation in regard to the payment.
“I honestly feel disgusted,” she said in the interview. “Somebody that comes [to SGA] and thinks they can just buy themselves in.”
Jones already had three code violations.
On April 5, 2019, Jones was disqualified from the race for violating campaign ethics, which did stem from him bribing a student, according to an article posted by The Signal.
Jazmin Meija went on to become the first Latina SGA president in university history and the first female university-wide president since the consolidation between Georgia State and Georgia Perimeter.
In the runoff, she received 74.69% of the student vote.
Hamza Rahman also won the Atlanta EVP election against Calixte with 53.35% of the vote.
Mejia and Rahman had a history of working closely together. Last March, Rahman introduced an opinion resolution in opposition to the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE), which was sponsored by Mejia.