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Skunks, capes and taxicabs

Kaitlynn Riely | Thursday, February 5, 2009

Most journalists go their whole careers without ever covering a debate in which one of the candidates uses the term “the lube crew.” I am not one of those journalists.

Student government candidates Luke Lennon and Charlie Harig want the dining halls, particularly North, to hire workers to continuously “lube” the salad bowls so they do not stick when picked up.

This was just one of the many ideas on the Zahm ticket’s platform. They also want to start an affirmative action program for beautiful women, because they are the biggest minority group at Notre Dame, Harig said. The freshman, wearing tight blue shorts and a cape, dropped the microphone and stumbled as he stood up to speak for the first time.

During the course of the debate between candidates for student government president and vice president, Lennon tried to start a game of “Who’s Line is it Anyway?,” danced to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” and led the crowd of students standing in the lobby of LaFortune in a cheer for “that mistake,” which he and his running mate hoped the student body would make on Feb. 9, student government election day.

I miss the U.S. presidential election season.

From August to November, we at The Observer covered the race between the Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin tickets.

We watched debates, discussed platform issues and followed the trajectory of the campaigns from the conventions to, finally, Grant Park, Chicago.

Then, abruptly, it ended. I’ve been missing the thrill of following professional politics, the national conversation about who should lead us.

Last week, we began covering the race for student body president. In some ways, it was similar to the national elections. The candidates have detailed platforms. They have fancy Web sites.

The similarities came to a screeching halt last night when, during the debate, one of the presidential candidates stripped out of his dress shirt, tie and khaki pants to reveal underneath a skin-tight, semi-see through White Power Ranger costume.

“I am indeed, the White Power Ranger,” Lennon said.

George Chamberlain, the president of the Judicial Council and the moderator of the debate, asked him where he had found a Power Ranger suit that large.

And I wondered why I was sitting in LaFortune at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday night, listening to a freshman who, in his introductory remarks, said, “I have never, and I will never, brush my teeth.”

The Zahm ticket was supposed to be the joke: the annual ticket that runs, gives everyone a good laugh, but never gets their hands near the keys to the student government office.

But during the last student government event I will ever cover, I found myself laughing at more than just Lennon and Harig.

Laura Burdick, running with fellow junior Derek Sanchez, wants to create a blog where students can write about their off campus apartments or houses, so younger students can pick what neighborhood would be best for them.

“Where is a place where ragers can happen and we won’t get into trouble?” she asked, hypothetically.

It’s a question I ask frequently, literally.

When Chamberlain introduced all the candidates, he stumbled over James McCaughan’s last name. McCaughan should have taken comfort from the fact that a man named Barack Obama, one of the strangest names in American politics, was just elected president.

Once McCaughan started speaking, I got it into my head that he could be the Obama of the Notre Dame student government race.

Candidate McCaughan, along with his running mate Tom Gorski, wants to see a difference in the way police and ushers enforce discipline during football games and at tailgating.

A difference. A change, maybe?

If people vote for McCaughan-Gorski, they will “see change,” McCaughan said.

But McCaughan’s mantra is not as stringently pro-change as Obama’s.

There will be change, he said, but they will “keep the good things constant.”

That’s change, and in select cases, status quo we can believe in.

My favorite McCaughan-Gorski platform issue is their sincere desire to move the student government office from the second floor of LaFortune to the first floor, such as in the Sorin Room or the Dooley room. Their goal: to make student government more accessible.

“It’s like walking by The Huddle, and stopping in and getting a candy bar,” McCaughan said.

Does this mean student government will start handing out chocolate? Should I expect a cappuccino machine?

Cynthia Weber, Grant Schmidt’s running mate, quickly assured them that this was not possible. Believe her, she’s tried.

It’s strange to see Schmidt, of GiveaSchmidt.com, without the other member of the Bob and Grant duo. But Schmidt kept mentioning Bob Reish during the debate, and Reish, the soon-to-be lame duck president, sat toward the back of the audience and off to the side, watching over his protégé.

Reish wasn’t the only name Schmidt dropped.

“It’s going to sound like I am name-dropping,” he said at one point.

Schmidt proceeded to drop a lot of names, then handed the microphone to Weber, who dropped even more.

By the end of the debate, Schmidt and Weber were literally completing each other’s sentences.

Schmidt scared me a little with his talk of a place near the border of Indiana and Michigan where, apparently, illegitimate cab drivers are born.

When he explained it more, I realized it actually wasn’t as scary as he made it sound originally.

“They’re not going to kill you, but they are going to take you back and forth and make money and maybe rip you off,” Schmidt said.

Whogivesaschmidt.com if your taxi driver acts like every other taxi driver in the country?

The second to last question of the night finally hit home to the one thing all Notre Dame students care deeply about: what to do about the skunk problem on campus.

The Zahm ticket ignored the question.

“I have no idea,” Sanchez admitted, speaking for the Burdick-Sanchez ticket.

Schmidt was also floored by the question.

“I don’t know if traps would work,” he said. “I don’t know what attracts skunks.”

If you vote on Monday, or even if you don’t, next year you might have lubed bowls. Or a first-floor student government office. Or taxis drivers who have never been to the Michigan-Indiana border. Or a blog to find the top party blocks.

But no matter who you vote for, campus will still stink.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Kaitlynn Riely [email protected]