SGA student body president candidate Richard Stein and his running mate Mo Barhamje say that fellow candidate Brian Zagrocki had attempted to persuade them to drop out of the SGA race.
Barhamje said that at roughly 1:30 a.m. on March 6 — the night after he and Stein had declared candidacy — Zagrocki texted him asking if the team could meet him at the Reflecting Pond. After some hesitation, Stein and Barhamje agreed.
Stein said that, at the meeting, Zagrocki and his running mate, Alex Bennett, told them that the team had no chance in the race because Stein has had no experience serving in Student Government Association. But Zagrocki said Stein's claim is "absolutely not true."
"We're both confident people, we told them to 'man-up'… We're in this to win it," Stein said.
Zagrocki has a different story: He said that he and Bennett simply wanted to get to know Stein's campaign.
"The purpose of the meeting was to find out what they stood for and why they were running," Zagrocki said. "We met with them with pure intentions … We were just asking them about what they stood for. We were trying to figure out what their goals were for the campaign."
But Barhamje said he doubts Zagrocki's explanation.
"You called us out to meet at 1:30 a.m. on the day we declared candidacy — there's really not much else you'd want to talk about," Barhamje said.
Regarding the timing of the meeting, Zagrocki said that he had tried setting up a time to meet on Saturday, but due to conflicting schedules no agreement for a time was made.
"We actually contacted them much, much earlier in the day and we tried setting up a meeting for Saturday, actually. I don't think either of us wanted to meet at that kind of time. It's not really conducive to be meeting that late," Zagrocki said.
Stein said the meeting caused him to be more "disappointed in SGA as a whole."
"It was more like a 'wow' moment — is this really how SGA is? We're not saying that everyone in SGA is like this … Though this high-ranking senator approached us like this," he said. "Mo and I are willing to work with the good members of SGA."
Zagrocki, who is the governmental affairs committee chair in the SGA Senate, said he does not want his integrity questioned.
"I don't want people to get distracted by this, because, you know, this is just kind of politics and it's a shame that things got spun in this manner," he said. "We want to just push it behind us and make this campaign about the students and about the platform points."
Nada Hassanein is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @nhassanein_or email her at NadaH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.