Beset by Blunders, Voith Finishes Third

Joseph L. Abel

John F. Voith ’07, whose insider ticket with Tara Gadgil ’07 was once considered the front-runner in the race, sits back after finishing in third place.

The newly dismantled Voith-Gadgil campaign headquarters, in a Winthrop House suite, was filled with staffers laughing, talking, toasting, and dancing to “Sweet Home Alabama” when the call came. As soon as John F. Voith ’07 answered his cell phone, the conversations stopped, and all eyes turned to him.

“Um, we didn’t win,” he announced after hanging up. No one seemed incredibly surprised.

Yet, two weeks ago, Voith and running-mate Tara Gadgil ’07 looked like the ticket to beat. As chairs of the Undergraduate Council’s (UC) Campus Life and Student Affairs Committees, respectively, Voith and Gadgil ran as the UC insider ticket. The campaign was poised for a strong showing this week when The Crimson released its endorsement of the pair on Sunday, and Council President Matthew J. Glazer ’06 issued a statement on his stance on social programming, which criticized ideas that seemed similar to those in the Haddock-Riley platform. And although Glazer said yesterday that the e-mail was not meant as a direct endorsement of Voith, it nonetheless gave the campaign a significant boost.

But the first 48 hours of the campaign’s second week proved disastrous for Voith and Gadgil, when a series of missteps eroded their credibility on campus.

The ticket drew widespread criticism after an e-mail revealed that a campaign staffer had suggested to Magnus Grimeland ’07 and running-mate Thomas D. Hadfield ’08, that they drop out of the race and “join forces” against John S. Haddock ’07.

On Monday, the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance and the Harvard Republican Club issued a joint statement condemning Voith and Gadgil for making misleading statements to their groups about the role of ROTC on campus.

The following day, The Crimson rescinded its endorsement, citing a loss of faith in the ticket after the week’s events.

Last night, after a tumultuous four days, the Voith campaign seemed braced for what finally came—news of their third-place showing, 248 votes behind “outsiders” Grimeland and Hadfield.

“I’m disappointed—of course I’m disappointed,” said Voith, thanking and embracing campaign staffers. But after a pregnant pause he said, “I have a lot of respect for John Haddock.”

Daniel A. Koh ’07, the Voith-Gadgil campaign manager, excused himself from the party shortly after the announcement and returned, teary-eyed, several minutes later. He said that, toward the end of his campaign, his main goal had been keeping the staff from falling into despair.

“If the staff gets down, the student body is perceptive, and they will see that,” he said.

Gadgil also traced the campaign’s movement into rough territory. She said that the first week of the campaign focused on concrete issues facing the UC.

“The level of discourse was phenomenal,” Gadgil said.

But she acknowledged that the campaign struggled in its second week.

Jennifer R. Popack ’08, who stood outside the Science Center cheering for Voith and Gadgil on several days during the two-week campaign, said she was upset at the defeat.

“It really sucks,” she said.

Yet even with a tall stack of Voith-Gadgil posters, flyers, and stickers still lying on a bookshelf, the candidates seemed eager to look forward.

“I still think the UC has so much potential,” said Gadgil.

“All three tickets had a lot of great ideas. I hope those positive changes are implemented,” Voith said.