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Two remaining tickets focused on runoff

Maddie Hanna | Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Old friends, Senate leaders and now serious competitors, Dave Baron, Lizzi Shappell, James Leito and Jordan Bongiovanni say while running against each other for Notre Dame student body president and vice president is difficult, they believe their friendship will withstand the test of Thursday’s runoff.”Come Thursday, when the pieces fall where they will, I’m confident James and I will be fine. We started this election tight, and I’ll make sure that we end it that way as well,” Baron said.The history between the candidates goes back to their freshman year, when juniors Baron, Bongiovanni and Leito were all members of Freshman Class Council.”Interesting enough, Jordan was the one to nominate me for president, and I nominated James for treasurer,” Baron said.The ties grew more complex last year when Baron served as campaign manager for the Ebersol-Leito ticket and was then appointed chief executive assistant by the winning Istvan-Bell administration.Baron stressed the careful decision-making he had practiced over the course of his time in student government.”When I came back from France last year, I wanted to get involved again. Knowing James, I made a decision to back them [Ebersol and Leito], and I wholeheartedly worked to help them,” Baron said.He continued, “When we lost and Adam Istvan offered me the chief executive assistant spot, I made another decision and dedicated myself wholeheartedly to combine the ideas I found to be most important from both tickets’ campaign.”However strong their decision-making skills might be, all four candidates were tested this past November in choosing who was going to run and for what position.”This election actually started in November when both James and Dave asked me to run with them. Deciding between two of my closest friends’ offers and my own decision of running for the presidency myself naturally creates conflict. But in the end, my decision is based on the running mate and position that best matches my own values and skills,” Bongiovanni said.Shappell, a sophomore, entered the picture this year when all four worked together in Senate.Leito and Bongiovanni both emphasized their strong friendship, a tie made even closer not only by their past cooperation in COR and Senate but also by the fact that they are both accounting majors and frequently study together.”We feed off of each other’s drive and push each other to work harder,” Leito said of their relationship.Bongiovanni said while she had not known Shappell before this year, she believes they will continue to become better friends.”If anything, my relationship with Lizzi has grown stronger because of our unique positions in this campaign. I am looking forward to sharing many cups of coffee after this is over with a friend who has been through such a similar, eventful experience,” Bongiovanni said.According to Shappell, they are all trying to put politics aside and move forward.”It is a little tough running against James and Jordan because of our friendship and working relationship. I don’t, however, feel any conflicts because of our background because I know we are all in this for the right reasons,” Shappell said.Leito said he found the race difficult because of Baron’s background.”It is frustrating to run against any student holding a position at the top of a student government that has failed to accomplish many of its goals,” Leito said.Despite this difficulty, Leito said, “I would think that regardless of whatever happens, we will all still remain friends.”Friendship was essential for Bongiovanni as well, who said, “Before we even decided which of us would run together, I took James and Dave to dinner to stress the point that if our friendships were damaged because of this election, I would consider that to be the greatest loss. And I still feel that way.”Bongiovanni said they aren’t much different from your average group of friends.”Every friendship has their tests and trials – ours are just a little more publicly known than usual,” she said.In addition to preserving their own friendships, the candidates also have to deal with having so many mutual friends that find themselves torn.”Our mutual friends have been split, some helping us, some helping them, others staying wholly out of it,” Baron said, concluding, “They will definitely celebrate when this election is over.”Leito agreed with Baron as to the uncertainty of the situation.”I wouldn’t want to speak for our mutual friends, but I am confident that they will make whatever decision they personally feel is best for the University,” Leito said.No matter what happens on Thursday, the candidates say they will be relieved to be finished with such an intense endeavor.”It’s just such a stressful time,” Baron said.Bongiovanni also mentioned the stress factor.”It’s an election, not a war,” she said. “But the time and energy alone that goes into a campaign stresses all of my relationships.”Even while dealing with this stress, Bongiovanni said that she had been able to keep her priorities straight.”It’s all about balance, and preserving what’s most important,” she said.

Mhana1@nd.edu