When the Duke Student Government ballot was sent to students April 4, there were no names listed for senior class president.
But when the winners were announced the next day, the senior class had a president. Junior Tony Dagher had successfully launched a write-in campaign and won the office.
“I found out actually when the election came out that no one was running," Dagher said. "My friend texted me like, ‘Hey, what happened, you said you were running but there was no one on the ballot?’ I was like, ‘I thought someone else was running!’ So that’s when the write-in campaign started.”
The junior had initially planned on running for the office and had filled out the paperwork—including collecting 50 student signatures to get on the ballot—because he noticed that there was no class council for the junior class this year, and he wanted to ensure that did not happen again.
After serving on Bassett House Council as a first-year and on Sophomore Class Council, both in a marketing role, Dagher decided to step up and make sure the senior class had that representation.
But an email sent to him and another student led him to think someone else was also seeking the office, and he was not interested in taking it away from anyone.
“I [was] taking the MCAT in two weeks, and ultimately it’s just important to me that we have a class council," Dagher said.
So he dropped out.
But when the ballots were sent out Thursday, he realized he had been wrong. Dagher quickly launched a write-in campaign. Using the list of students who had signed up to initially support his run, the junior reached out to friends for help.
“It was kind of hectic," Dagher joked.
In order to file a write-in vote, a student must email the Duke Student Government attorney general with their choice. In order to win an election by a write-in campaign, a class presidential candidate must receive 50 votes.
Attorney General John Markis, a first-year and staff reporter for The Chronicle, said that to his knowledge it has been years since a successful write-in campaign was run.
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Dagher's short-lived campaign was successful, and he will be the senior class president next year.
“Thank God it worked out," he said. "I’m really excited and happy for what’s to come.”
The biomedical engineering major took the MCAT on Saturday and is focusing on his plans for his tenure as class president. For next year, Dagher is excited to bring back social events—like Midnight Breakfast—and swag for the class's last year. He noted that they are chances for the class to get together outside of a divided social scene.
“Everybody has their own clique, but these kinds of events tend to attract the entire class," he said. "At Midnight Breakfast, you’ll see the friend you haven’t seen since freshman year.”
As for winning by a write-in campaign, Dagher said that he hopes that it's not something candidates have to turn to in the future. He suggests increased awareness of the deadlines and upcoming elections with better marketing pushes from DSG.
But if it comes to leaving a class without representation or corralling your friends into a 24-hour write-in blitz, he hopes that students will take the electoral path infrequently traveled.
“I hope that nobody has to do that, but that, if it comes down to it, people feel like they can," Dagher said. "Maybe I’ve made that a little more plausible.”