Dueling complaints in SGA presidential race settled by student court

(left to right) Candidates for SGA vice president, Andy Flood, and president, Tucket Lovett, listen as current president Michael Hamilton and director of government relations Katherine Speece voice their concerns to the judicial panel on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, at the Gatton College of Business in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Jacob Eads

A pair of claims brought before the Student Government Association Supreme Court questioning the legitimacy of each of the candidates for Student Body President ended in a wash Wednesday night.

In nearly two weeks, incumbent SGA President Michael Hamilton, along with running mate Kat Speece, will take on challengers Tucker Lovett and Andy Flood in the election to be UK’s next student body president and vice president.

Both tickets were summoned before the SGA judiciary Wednesday in the Gatton College of Business to defend the claims they filed against one another leading up to the Feb. 26-27 election.

The first claim brought before the court against the candidacy of Lovett and Flood relied heavily on judicial interpretation of the SGA Constitution. 

Both Hamilton and Speece contended that the SGA Constitution renders Lovett’s candidacy invalid, because he is not a current member of the student government.

They argued that Article VI of the SGA Constitution demands any candidate seeking to attain a “chief leadership position” within any branch of the SGA must already be a member of the student government.

Hamilton argued to the court that the framers of the SGA Constitution included this provision to “safeguard” the most influential offices within the student government, like president and vice president, from those without the proper levels of experience to serve the student body. 

“When you’re the chief leader of that branch or the chief leader in the organization it’s your job to understand and have a deeper institutional understanding of the organization, and the university quite frankly, to be able to give that guidance,” he said.

Lovett and Flood argued before the court that this interpretation of the SGA Constitution fosters an era of exclusivity among the government. 

“More than likely, if we weren’t the only candidates sitting across from them and we weren’t the only candidates in this race that we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion,” Lovett said. “I can see where they believe these things as the current president wanting to attain this position again.”

Ultimately, the panel of Supreme Court Justices ruled unanimously in favor of Lovett and Flood, citing the ambiguity of the SGA Constitution and an attempt to maintain inclusivity. 

“I think the bulk of the decision turned on the overall message of SGA and its nature of promoting inclusivity among the entire student body,” said Chief Justice Jake Bartlett. 

After the court’s ruling in Lovett’s favor, his ticket decided to drop its previously filed claim against Hamilton.

“Our team was very pleased with last night’s unanimous ruling in our favor,” Lovett told the Kernel. “The court was clear in their position that this claim did not have the best interests of our fellow students at heart and was not representative of our campus community as a whole. We believe this claim was intended to spread divisiveness rather than unity and inclusivity.”

Hamilton also said his ticket was content with the outcome of the night’s hearings. 

“We weren’t really sure of the interpretation of the clause at hand, so we consulted the Court,” Hamilton said. “Their ruling will establish precedent that clarifies election procedures for future elections, and that’s what these processes are in place to do.

“We are excited for a fun and amicable race ahead,” Hamilton continued. “We are confident that we’re the most qualified candidates in the race, and we can’t wait to serve students again if elected.”

Lovett echoed Hamilton’s sentiment about the remainder of the election process.

“We look forward to continuing our campaign on the basis of honesty and transparency,” Lovett said. “Andy’s (Flood) and my involvement and love for this campus runs deep and we hope to continue promoting and representing all students of this great university.” 

A debate between each pair of candidates is scheduled to take place Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. in the Gatton College of Business and Economics’ Kincaid Auditorium. The two-day-long election period begins on Feb. 27 and ends on Feb. 28.