News analysis: Can Forward catch up?

If the Forward Party wants to win the ASUU general elections, it has a big game of catching up to do.

The party survived last week’s primary elections for the Associated Students of the University of Utah by a mere 40 votes to become one of two parties to advance to the finals.

Now it is halftime in the elections, and Forward must pick up some major ground if it’s going to beat the FUSE Party, which led by more than 600 votes in the primaries. Forward received 971 votes, compared with the 1,529 received by FUSE.

Forward Party presidential candidate Rick Pehrson’s success will likely depend on the party’s ability to pull votes from the supporters of the More 4 U and Activate Parties, which were defeated in the primaries last week.

Former More 4 U Party presidential candidate Joe Coccimiglio is supporting FUSE Party presidential candidate Spencer Pearson, whom he says he came to respect during the campaign.

Cameron Beech, former Activate Party presidential candidate, is in turn backing Forwards and, as Pehrson said, even offered to help the candidates prepare for their final debates and wear the party’s T-shirt.

But how these new alliances will play out is unclear.

While Beech said he is confident many of his party’s supporters will back the Forward Party, it is impossible to know for sure which way voters will swing.

Based on its dominance in the primaries, FUSE has likely already gained widespread support from voters and a strong following on Greek Row because of Pearson’s affiliation with the Sigma Chi fraternity — four of the six past student body presidents have belonged to Sigma Chi.

Forward, however, might be able to gain additional backing from voters in the LDS Institute of Religion, where it has already gained strong support and recruited candidates and staffers.

The More 4 U Party had a similarly strong backing at the institute, which may now mean the Forward Party can pick up More 4 U’s supporters.

Forward might now look to its platform to distinguish itself from the FUSE Party. Forward has laid out more specific goals than FUSE on its Web site, something Pehrson sees as an advantage.

“We tried to be extremely specific (with our platform)?so people could hold us accountable,” Pehrson said.

Based on the primary votes, however, it is clear that voters are backing FUSE regardless of Pearson making fewer campaign promises.

The election will likely come down to the personal attributes of the candidates and the organization of their campaigns.

FUSE has run what appears to be a highly organized campaign with several inside managers handling most of the routine details.

Basim Motiwala, FUSE Party vice-presidential candidate, said the party managers have even mapped out routes for him and Pearson to walk around on campus. He said the party’s early successes haven’t caused the candidates to relax, either.

“We’re going to fight like we’re the underdog,” Motiwala said.

The Forward Party has likewise led an aggressive campaign, but its leaders have been more involved in the day-to-day efforts, which may mean they have had less time to interact with students and could be at a disadvantage.

Christopher Peddecord