McDermott, Abounabhan ‘pushed back’ during primary elections with no prior SGA experience

Primary election candidates for student body president and vice president Sarah McDermott, senior in entrepreneurship, and Mary Abounabhan, junior in managament, stand in front of Anderson Hall. (Nick Horvath | The Collegian)

Push back.

That is what Sarah McDermott, senior in entrepreneurship, said she had to do to earn her 638 votes in the Kansas State Student Governing Association’s student body president primary elections.

McDermott ran for student body president alongside Mary Abounabhan, junior in management.

The pair received 19.51 percent of the vote, falling behind Jack Ayres, junior in chemical engineering, and Matt Mindrup, sophomore in biology. Both Ayres and Mindrup moved on to the general elections with their vice president candidates, which will be held March 7-8.

“I was overwhelmed,” McDermott said. “Six hundred and thirty eight people saw the vision that we have and thought, ‘yeah, that’s a good one.’ It would have been a different race had there been one more week.”

Abounabhan said seeing how much they accomplished in less than two weeks was encouraging.

“We had a week and a half to do all this,” Abounabhan said. “The other two candidates had been preparing for so long, since September, so in perspective, we accomplished quite a bit.”

After seeing the vote counts, Abounabhan said it was clear that at least part of the K-State student body wanted to see what a fresh perspective could do for them.

“A lot of people were backing us because they wanted that fresh perspective, so it was encouraging, but also, depending on who you talk to, kind of intimidating,” Abounabhan said.

Intimidating, Abounabhan said, because some of the people they talked to discouraged them from staying in the race.

As the only duo that did not have prior experience in SGA, McDermott and Abounabhan said it made for a much more challenging campaign period.

“People definitely doubted us a little bit more,” McDermott said. “They were like, ‘Wait you guys actually are selling yourselves on the fact that you don’t have SGA experience?'”

For McDermott, she said there’s only one real way she could describe what the campaigning period was like as a non-SGA candidate.

“If I had to describe this experience, it was like having a chip on your shoulder,” McDermott said. “Some people see that as a bad thing, but for us it was an extra push.”

McDermott said while it was not easy, she and Abounabhan had to push back to stand their ground in the campaign.

“You have to push back,” McDermott said. “If you feel discouraged from doing something or overwhelmed, you have to push back. There were even people who met with us and in a roundabout way tried to discourage us from running, but we had to give some pushback there.”

Pushing for authenticity

The pair said outside of “pushing back,” they believe authenticity and genuine personalities got them as far as they did. They said they hope students saw that through their campaign, whether that was through their posters in different languages or their willingness to reach out to different groups who feel underrepresented.

“While there’s no demographics of who voted for us, I think it’s pretty safe to say it was a lot of ethnic multicultural students and minorities,” McDermott said. “In real-world politics, they get used enough and so that’s not what we are here to promote.”

As previously reported by the Collegian, Ayres also said he believes McDermott brought in new voters.

“I think the number of votes that they brought in represent a lot of students who may not have voted in previous years, and I think that’s a testament to what they did,” Ayres said.

Overall, the duo said that based on the feedback they have received from voters, they feel K-State students appreciated their authenticity.

“The feedback we got was from people appreciating how real we were being,” McDermott said. “We tried not to come out as rehearsed, and we’re not afraid to say we don’t know, but that’s not to say we’re not going to find out.”

Pushing without a title

While McDermott and Abounabhan will not be moving on to the general elections, they said they will still be pushing for empowerment, diversity and transparency at K-State.

They both have gotten involved with Diversity 2025 and are running for student senate in hopes of continuing to bring change.

“We continue to live a lifestyle that shows you don’t need a position to advocate for students, empower students or promote diversity,” McDermott said. “What we’ve come to realize is it’s a lifestyle more than anything.”

Not pushing for a candidate

McDermott and Abounabhan said they will not be formally endorsing either of the candidates in the general elections.

“I think it’s getting a little bit political trying to tell people you have to choose this one or this one,” McDermott said. “It should be more of what do you value and then go in that direction.”

The pair said they encourage the 638 students who voted for them, as well as everyone else, to talk to both candidates and vote for the one who values what they do.

“For us, we’re going to talk to them again and ask, ‘How do you plan on implementing empowerment, diversity and transparency?'” Abounabhan said.

McDermott and Abounabhan said they want students to remember the importance of authenticity and their values before voting in the general election.

“If your goal is simply to win, then you’re doing it wrong,” Abounabhan said. “Because even though we didn’t make it to the general election, we definitely did not lose. We brought change and we got people talking.”

Hi, I'm Kaitlyn Alanis, former news editor for the Collegian and a May 2017 graduate in agricultural communications and journalism. I have never tried a hamburger and I hate the taste of coffee, but I love writing stories and sharing what I learn with our readers. By writing for the Collegian, I can now not only sing along when the K-State Band plays "The Band is Hot," but I also know that most agriculture students did not grow up on a farm, how to use an AED to save someone's life and why there is a bust of MLK Jr. outside of Ahearn Field House. Thanks for reading!