That Time Again

It’s Craccum election time again, poor bastards. Usually it’s either a one- or two-horse race, with fairly obvious people from the incumbent editors’ team running against someone hoping to interrupt the dynasty.

This time it’s a bit more interesting, and it’s really something I’ve been waiting to watch for four years. There are four teams running for Craccum Editor ’10, and every single one of them has a real chance.

Elections are an interesting way to pick editors of Craccum. The most common criticism and most common praise of the system are the same: anyone can win. Another criticism is that being able to run a successful campaign does not demonstrate the ability to produce a successful magazine, but I disagree. The role of editor is not to write well, as many often think, but rather to inspire a group of volunteers to consistently contribute publishable content throughout an entire year. Elections can’t be won alone. They need a team, and the better the candidate is at collecting and inspiring that team, the better chance they have at winning elections. And so the elections tend to favour the people who will make good editors.

So, we’ve got four candidates, or teams of candidates. Here’s the rundown. In alphabetical order of first name.

Dan Sloan (Sloanface)
Dan’s one of the few editors ever to run for re-election. Possibly only the second, after Bomber. Last year, Dan was editor of an adequate Craccum, which neither particularly sucked nor particularly shone. His problem the first time around was that the team he rallied to win his election, from an online forum, did not go on to be a team that consistently contributed content. More pressure fell on inherited contributors and on Dan himself, which caused frustration all round, and things slowed down as the year went on.

Curiously, Dan’s taken to starting his lecture speaks with an apology or admission that last year’s Craccum didn’t live up to his own hopes and expectations, and his campaign has an air of someone asking to be given another chance. Strategically, this may not be the best move, as the majority of voters are first-year students who won’t have read his Craccum and would probably react more favourably if he ran purely on a vague assurance of experience. He’s also recycled his old campaign posters, presumably not wanting to mess with what’s worked in the past.

But Dan’s main advantage is that he plans things well. He decided to run for ’08 at the start of ’06, giving him a year and a half to prepare and observe two elections before diving in. He’s scored prime banner real estate in the AUSA atrium, getting his name into people’s heads, which is half the battle. And he knows well enough how to deal with student politicians to get some support from them too.

Dan knows how Craccum works, knows the staff he’ll be working with if he wins, and there’s really no question that he’ll be able to produce a readable magazine.

Dave Parfitt and Matt Roberts
Dave ran with the Incredible Tama Boyle against Dan in the election for the ’08 editorship and lost. That was a two-horse race, and Dan ran a better campaign. One advantage to Dan and disadvantage to Tama/Dave was the rather appalling kick in the teeth delivered by Princes Street Labour to the loyal-to-the-point-of-madness Tama in supporting Dan. But that’s now history.

What it means is that Dave knows how to lose an election, specifically how to lose an election against Dan, and will have learned from those mistakes – primarily a lack of dedication the first time around. He’s teamed up with Matt Roberts, who has only been contributing to Craccum really this year, but I’m hardly in a position to fault that. The two have worked together editing the ’09 music section, and between them know how the magazine works.

They’ve also started the race with a 50-vote penalty for not turning up to the candidates pre-meeting, due to work commitments. They seem to have taken this as a challenge rather than fatalistically, which is good for them, as these campaigns are won on effort and the rewards of that effort increase geometrically. They’re going very hard with lecture speaks, which I maintain are the main decider in AUSA elections. It’s possible that the 50-vote penalty will win them the election, rather than lose it.

Haimona Gray and Rosabel Tan
Haimona has a musical name that can be inserted into many popular songs, including My Sharona and Britney Spears’ classic Hit Me Baby One More Time. He and Rosabel are experienced writers in general, though Haimona’s experience has mostly been with Salient rather than Craccum. They have the tightest poster designs and images, suggesting that their eye for layout won’t let down their skill with words. If they won and were able to maintain and grow the Craccum contributor base, there’s no doubt they’d publish a magazine I’d really enjoy reading.

Unfortunately, I’m very unusual and I’m not reflective of the Auckland Uni-student voter base. While they may be attractive to readers with higher-brow tastes, their posters, manners and presumably lecture speaks may fail to inspire the unwashed masses whose support is necessary for a win. Dan’s doing it with well-executed banners and playing recognisability, Dave and Matt are doing it with flyers and posters with a broad appeal, but without adopting some similar tactic, Haimona and Rosabel may end up being the smart choice, but not the popular choice.

Haimona’s running mate makes things interesting for him. She is overseas for the first half of the campaign, so Haimona’s essentially running by himself for now. Dan’s doing the same, but he’s got the experience to pull that off. The H/R campaign may kick into top gear next week when she rejoins him. I’ve only met Rosabel a few times, but hearing others talk about her with glazed looks in their eyes and slightly goofy grins suggests she may have an advantage that the mainly male competition won’t be able to match.

Nick Keesing and Tara Someone Apparently
Nick is an institution at Auckland University, and has the experience of having lost more AUSA elections than most students have even voted in. He ran for Craccum Editor last year with his friend Reuben, who was well chosen for the job of running an election campaign. Reuben’s recognisable, well-liked and had networks inaccessible to Nick in drumming up support. The election was close enough to require two recounts, seeing this year’s editors win, and leaving Nick with his characteristic suspicion/certainty of conspiracy against him.

This time he’s chosen a nearly-18-year-old girl named Tara to run with him, presumably once again hoping to counter the disadvantages he predicts. His team can’t be called old, grumpy or chauvinist if he’s got a young, peppy girl on side who I’m told has a passion for women’s rights. I don’t know anything more about her, and neither does anyone else, so let’s ignore her for now.

Nick’s main advantage this time is that – and I can’t recall who I’m quoting – the other three candidates run the risk of splitting “the sane vote”, leaving enough fringe votes for Nick Keesing to finally get himself in that seat. Dan, Dave, Matt, Haimona and Rosabel all represent Craccum past and present, with only Nick being able to realistically claim that his magazine would be radically different from what people are used to. While most voters are happy with next year’s Craccum to be some variation on the preceding years’, the real question when it comes to Keesing is whether or not three times as many voters want basically more of the same.

If there’s more than a quarter of voters who don’t, Nick’s in, and none of the other candidates seem to realise this. Nick’s such an institution, such an occasional running joke, such an habitual AUSA-election loser that they have all dismissed him out of hand. This is a mistake. All three of their campaigns are aimed at grabbing a share of the same group of voters, and they need to learn from the lessons of the past:

When I ran in ’05 for the ’06 editorship, I was up against three quite different candidates. Katie Small represented the intelligent readership and was a woman; Thomas and Anthony dove straight into aiming at the lowest common denominator; and Roy (Rod) and Todd campaigned solely on a Craccum that was utterly different from previous years.

Rod and Todd came second, after me. They managed to win or create roughly 450 essentially protest votes against the Craccum dynasty. And they didn’t even try all that hard. I guarantee you that Nick Keesing is trying very very hard.

Good luck to all. I’ll want to read Craccum next year no matter who wins.

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