Despite tradition, no Jack-O candidate this year

by Sabrina Peric | 5/1/02 5:00am

Some time in the not so distant past, when some students thought Student Assembly election slogans couldn't get any more absurd, the Jack-O-Lantern convinced them that the opposite was true.

Campaigning with outrageous platforms and always reminding students of their stance on campus politics, the Jack-O offered what was often missing in the rest of the elections -- humor.

This year, however, marks the first election cycle in the past decade that the Jack-O has not proposed a candidate for Student Assembly president or vice-president.

Michael Weiss '02, the managing editor for the Jack-O and a member of The Dartmouth's op-ed staff, recently discussed with a reporter why the renowned humor magazine was unable to come up with a candidate this year.

"I spent a good hour forging the requisite signatures needed to run a candidate," Weiss said.

"And our chosen one -- who shall remain nameless -- then decided, 'I'm too busy to show up to debates' and say things like, 'I knew Molly Stutzman, Janos Marton. And you, sir, are no Molly Stutzman,'" Weiss continued.

But even Weiss, describing the serious topic of why the magazine was not sponsoring a candidate this year, was unable to be serious for long. He described himself as the "self-appointed Official Rationalizer For Why The Jack-O Doesn't have an Official Candidate For SA President in a hastily-assembled directorate vote consisting of myself."

The tradition of the Jack-O candidate began sometime in the early nineties, though no one really knows why. But the idea, according to Jack-O mythology, was born much earlier. "Could be that that politically-minded munchkin king Robert Reich [a former editor] suggested the idea of a candidate not to be taken too seriously and -- well, look at who he went on to work for" Weiss explained

The way in which the humor magazine recruits its candidates has always been shady at best, as ordinary students often have trouble interpreting intentionally misleading explanations.

Former presidential candidate Brett Quimby '02 informed The Dartmouth that "I was forced [to run in the elections] by the Jack-O mafia. That and the SA lured me in with promises of candy."

Quimby's running mate, Jacob Osterhout '02, simply said, "I'm not going to lie to you. I did it for the money. When the Jack-O is offering you twenty thousand in soft campaign money and you've spent your last dollar bill on a twinkie yesterday, suddenly VP looks real good."

The question then remains: what is the appeal of a Jack-O-Lantern candidate in the Assembly? Why would a Jack-O candidate run at all?

"To increase the amount of slush money and bribes used in the election," Quimby stated. "It's like bidding on eBay for cars -- you don't really want to win, just make it that much harder for the candidates to bribe people. And man, oh man, is there tons of bribing in the election process. I was offered $8,000,000 to drop out of the race."

"The role of the Jack-O candidate is to remind the other two-bit, no-brain candidates that they are still in college and this is all make-believe," Osterhout expounded.

"Dartmouth students look at a normal SA candidate and they see the point Matthew Broderick's character was trying to make in 'Election,'" Weiss explained. "They look at a Jack-O SA candidate and they see exactly what happened to that kid who wouldn't shut up about Star Wars in AP Calculus."

Jack-O candidates are not all fun and games. Campaigns in the past have called for important reforms and significant changes to policies at the College -- at least that's what the candidates claim.

Quimby, for example, promised that he would "give back to Mitzi at Food Court" and turn the SA into a theocracy when he ran for student body president.

His running mate, Osterhout, claimed to "understand that the only way this school is going to survive into the twenty-first century is through sacrifice. So let us be your martyrs, your sons of Abraham, because, Dartmouth College, we want to bring the fate of this school back into your hands."

The key to Quimby and Osterhout's platform was that Dartmouth would become an all-women's college. "But tastefully done. That's important -- to be tasteful." Quimby emphasized.

The Jack-O campaign for Dan Powell '00 promised that Powell would be "just an instrument of what will certainly be our unholy regime."

Powell called for an investigation into "what goes on in that sketchy factory behind Topliff and New Hampshire residence halls" and to "institute a system of imperialism within residential life at the College in which residential clusters could take each other over through military strength."

And while their goals may appear lofty and far above the reach of our Student Assembly, the Jack-O candidates have often come quite close to winning the elections.

In 1999, the Jack-O vice presidential candidate, Anna Van Meter '01, came in a significantly close second with 27 percent of the vote, while winner Margaret Kuecker '01 was elected with only a nine percent margin.

"It's very strange," Weiss said. "Everyone I speak with says: 'I voted a strict Jack-O ticket,'" yet we've never won an election. Where's Milan Kundera when you need him?"

Until that moment however, the Jack-O staff is perfectly fine without an Assembly candidate this year. "We're all lazy schmucks," Weiss said.

The Jack-O-Lantern is hoping that all will change next year, and that they will be able to produce a candidate. "I wonder what Jim Jeffords is up to next year," Weiss wondered, referring to the independent U.S. Senator from Vermont.

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