Hidden in a swarm of orange and blue T-shirts, Colin Solomon gripped onto his friends, sobbing tears of joy.
After writing UF Student Government legislation for two semesters, Solomon, now first term senator-elect of Keys Residential Complex, was one of 26 Inspire Party candidates who won SG Senate seats Wednesday night.
This is the first time Inspire, which has historically been the minority party since its 2017 inception, won the majority of seats in an election. Inspire won 52 percent of open Senate seats, while newcomer Gator Party won 48 percent. Gator won 24 Senate seats.
SG Supervisor of Elections Stephanie Siler said 9,907 students voted on Tuesday and Wednesday –– 1,519 more votes than the Fall 2018 elections. There were 45 Inspire, 50 Gator and five Independent candidates grappling for 50 open Senate seats.
During Summer, Solomon was set to fill Mackintosh Joachim's District D Senate position. But after the majority party-led summer replacement committee appointed new senators instead, Solomon was left without a seat. He got what he wanted Wednesday night.
“I was certain I was going to lose,” he said. “I was crying before the results were even announced. And then she said, ‘Keys: Inspire,’ and I’ve literally never felt happier in my life.”
The race was a contentious one, with the installation of blue light emergency phones on Fraternity Row being on the forefront of student voters’ minds.
Inspire’s first platform point addresses the lack of lights. The platform was released before a protest attended by more than 200 demonstrators in support of having these emergency lights on Fraternity Row.
Ashley Grabowski, Inspire’s campaign manager and former senator, originally drafted the bill for blue light installation on Fraternity Drive. She lost her seat in senate this Summer due to Senate President Libby Shaw calling her “constructively absent” to justify Grabowski’s forced resignation.
“Sometimes it seems like there’s nothing we can do,” Grabowski said. “But nights like this are just reminders of the fact that it’s possible and the fact that there’s this many people that care enough to overcome that much, and it’s amazing.”
Despite adding their own sexual assault prevention point, Gator Party did not include blue light installation on its platform.
Gator spokesperson Wynton White said he feels great about the results of tonight’s election, despite not winning the majority of open Senate seats.
“We didn’t win every seat we would’ve liked to,” White said, “but that’s not going to stop us from carrying out our vision and being the best Gators we can be.”
White said Gator will be bipartisan in its approach on future policies.
“We are very happy to work on the other side of the aisle,” White said, “and we don’t want to have a party divide us. The one thing that we have in common is being Gators.”
When asked about how he felt about Inspire’s win, Gator treasurer Richard Doan paused for about 15 seconds to reflect on the question.
“I know Inspire, much like Gator Party, has put in a lot of work in the last month,” Doan said. “They put in the work just like we did. At the end of the day, it’s the students that vote... and they vote for their voices to be heard.”
Doan said he’s happy for everyone who won.
“I believe that every single person who pursues Student Government fights for a cause,” Doan said. “I think it’s important to remember that we all fight for the same thing, which is promoting the voice of the Student Body.”
Inspire’s win did not come without some controversy, however. About 15 minutes before results were announced, Inspire released a statement on Facebook about how the SG Elections Commission recommended the party to be disqualified after sending an email that constitutes as spam.
Inspire was sent a Cease and Desist Order on Sept. 24 by Kyle Soch, the Elections Commission chair. The order came after Gator Party filed a campaign violation complaint, according to the statement.
Although university officials affirm Inspire didn’t violate any “relevant UF policies,” the SG Elections Commission upheld the violations. The UF Student Supreme Court will review the violations at a later date.
It remains unclear what will happen to newly elected Inspire senators if the party gets disqualified.
At Tuesday night’s Senate meeting, senators will vote on the Senate pro-tempore and Senate president.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Mackintosh Joachim.
Inspire President Zachary Amrose celebrates Wednesday night as Inspire won the majority of open seats.