After victory, time for Montell to seek input from students

Perhaps congratulations are due to Tyler Montell for seizing the least surprising Student Government presidential victory in recent years.

With the common-sense strategy of being the only ticket on the ballot, Montell and running mate Grant Mills soared to victory last night, vanquishing pesky write-in candidates with a whopping vote count of 1,940, 1,711 more than their closest write-in opponent.

Now, Montell and Mills need to lead something that was left out of this one-sided presidential campaign: a true debate about the most pressing issues facing UK students and how SG should respond to them.

In a normal campaign, the candidates present competing visions of SG’s priorities and methods, and voters get to register their preference. This year, though, voters had no meaningful alternative to Montell’s platform — at best, dissatisfied voters could use the write-in slot to give a shout-out to their best friend or favorite “Star Wars” character.

In an interview with the editorial board last week, Montell spoke as if a true campaign would have been a distraction from more important matters, drawing contrasts between the political race and the process of developing a governing agenda.

“The real benefit to students of having only one ticket running is that we’ve been really proactive in the transition,” he said. “We have a month to work on what we would do as president and vice president instead of focusing on the race.”

But a competitive campaign would have forced Montell to defend his proposals before the student body — and, more importantly, it would have given a public airing to other points of view.

For instance, while we didn’t agree with 2007 presidential candidate Scott McIntosh’s proposal to eliminate salaries for executive officers, the plan raised awareness about accountability in SG and pushed eventual victor Nick Phelps to develop a response. Although the competition may have distracted the candidates from drawing up final governing agendas, having an open debate ultimately benefited the student body.

Montell’s easy path to victory doesn’t preclude him from engaging in this sort of public dialogue. He could, for instance, hold an open forum with some of the newly elected senators — especially those who did not run on his “ticket” — to debate what SG’s priorities should be and how to achieve them in the coming school year.

Students should not regard Montell as illegitimate simply because he ran unopposed. As we said in our endorsement of him, he is certainly qualified for the job and will take it seriously.

Nevertheless, he won’t have much stature or leverage if he doesn’t open himself up to the kind of public debate that would have happened in a normal campaign.