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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Against a stacked roster of Swamp Party candidates campaigning on Turlington Plaza and outside of the Reitz Union, Evan Morris and Preston Jones stick to word-of-mouth tactics.

Morris, a UF marketing junior, and Jones, an 18-year-old UF civil engineering freshman, stand alone on the Student Government 2014 Fall elections ballot as independent candidates for Student Senate.

Morris, who is running as a senator for District B, which includes zip codes east of campus, said he chose to run independently because UF currently has one major party.

“That’s a dominant party system of government, and it’s unhealthy for UF, for our government to be run that way,” the 20-year-old said.

Morris is still working on his campaign platform, but topics such as the environment and safety, especially sexual assaults by an unknown attacker, are his top priorities.

“We need to find a way to keep our students safe, as well as keep crime off our campus,” he said.

But even if Morris doesn’t win, he said he hopes to inspire students to run in the Spring 2015 elections.

“I want to encourage all students to vote and to realize the problems that are happening in the system,” he said.

As a resident of Hume Hall, Jones decided to run for a Senate seat after attending a UF Honors retreat before classes began.

Jones said he decided to run as an independent so he could have the freedom to represent the interests of everyone in his residence hall.

“What really pushed me toward running was meeting with some of the people in Hume,” Jones said.

With the concern about the scarcity of blue lights on campus, Jones walked around Hume and mapped out all the blue lights, finding only two blue lights around the residence hall. Residents have told Jones that they are nervous walking back from GatorNights at the Reitz Union because of the poor lighting.

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“I think something we should strive for is to have two visible blue lights wherever you are on campus,” Jones said.

UF political science professor Stephen Craig knows the difficulty independent candidates face when campaigning.

“Independents are largely perceived as candidates who don’t seem to win,” he said. “For the most part, if you’re gonna run as an independent, you have to be committed to believing in what you say.”

Megan Williams, 20, usually doesn’t vote because of the Swamp Party’s majority status, but she said she would vote for an independent.

“It shouldn’t be dominated,” the UF religion junior said. “It should be a variety.”

[A version of this story ran on page 4 on 9/22/2014 under the headline "Two students running for Student Senate as independents"]

Preston Jones (left) and Evan Morris are running as independent candidates for the Student Senate in Fall 2014 Student Government elections.

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