Emil G. Michael '94 was elected president of the Harvard Republican Club last night, beating back a challenge by Association Against Learning in the Absence of Religion and Morality (AALARM) founder and co-president Kenneth D. DeGiorgio '93.
During a heated debate in the Lamont Forum, each candidate charged that the other was a "hypocrite." Before the audience of 60, Michael attacked his opponent's attendance record while DeGiorgio accused Michael of "flip-flopping" on abortion.
"That is hypocrisy, plain and simple," DeGiorigio said of Michael's statement that he had "not made up [his] own mind" on abortion.
"This club should be based on family values," said DeGiorgio, waving his Republican National Committee membership card in the air.
But Michael said that taking an anti-abortion stand might alienate many potential members. "I don't think we should form a pro-life policy if we exclude 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent of the club," said Michael.
But DeGiorgio, who recently rejoined the club after serving as its treasurer two years ago, came under attack during a question-and-answer session for not having attended any club events during the past year.
To elect DeGiorgio "would be to crush the foundation we have built," said Michael, who has served the past year as the club's program director.
And current President Harry J. Wilson '93, who said he had expected Michael to run unopposed, joined club members in attacking DeGiorgio during the question-and-answer session.
"You don't know a thing about what's going on," said Wilson '93. "You've been to no meetings."
But despite the angry rhetoric, club officers said the candidate speeches and debate represented a "watershed" for an organization that has been plagued by internal strife. strife.
The election of Summer E. Anderson '92 as president two years ago--an event which still casts a long shadow over current club politics--touched off an exodus of moderate Republicans as well as an investigation of Anderson's campaign tactics by Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III.
"When I became president of the club, we made it more conservative," said Anderson, who endorsed DeGiorgio in last night's election. "But nothing I've ever espoused has been ultraconservative."
According to club officials, Epps cleared Anderson of any wrongdoing, but the executive board quickly moved to amend the organization's constitution and impose more stringent election controls. In addition, last year's election of Wilson was seen by many club members as a return to more inclusive, traditionally conservative leadership.
"I think these elections are a watershed," Wilson said. "The elections have changed, and they show how the club has changed. Elections in the past have often been marked by controversy," he said.
Club officers said they thought that the victory of Michael, who calls himself a conservative, over AALARM founder DeGiorgio was grounded in personality, not politics.
"Ken's activism this year amounted to 15 minutes at the election, and that was the only divisive element," said Wilson