More Than Just A Name: Former SLC candidates speak about their election losses and future hopes for LBCC

SLC presidential runner-up Ariel Zapien and VP Justen Noll

When Linn-Benton Community College elected Brian Ixtlahuac as next year’s president of the Associated Students of LBCC (ASLBCC), the decision left fellow candidates Areli Zapien and Conner Hibbs to lick their wounds in private. Post-election coverage and appreciation are usually reserved for the winner, and it’s not uncommon for runner-ups to be forgotten in the process, even by former supporters. While their run for office may be at an end, however, their stories and policies are not.

The blow came in late February after a week-long struggle between the trio, punctuated by two consecutive debates and subdued campaign efforts. In order to raise awareness, Zapien manned a table with Justen Noll, the vice president-elect, at the Benton Center on at least one occasion and spread the word among friends. Hibbs announced his candidacy through posters.

In the end, Ixtlahuac prevailed, but he was not without words of affirmation for his fellow competitors.

“My first impression of the two candidates was overwhelming because they both had a lot of experience in being a leader and having a drive of self-determination,” said Ixtlahuac. “When it comes to their ideas and policies, I thought they were amazing. I agreed with every idea and policy they spoke upon. I did not disagree with any of their ideas because to some extent we all had the same ideas to bring to LBCC.”

Though Itxlahuac held leadership roles in high school, such as Corvallis High School’s Co-Student Body President, he admitted he was still nervous about his chances. Zapien and Hibbs, he believed, were formidable and diverse opponents, and their unique majors, pre-med and biology respectively, only added to their already impressive qualifications.

“I got a really good impression off of Areli right away as someone who’s a really caring individual, really kind of a warm person, a team player,” said Noll.
Describing Zapien as an “easy-going person,” Noll said one of her strengths as a candidate was her ability to both emphasize and establish good rapport with fellow LBCC students.

As for Hibbs, Noll said that while he didn’t have the chance to talk with him as much as Ixtlahuac or Zapien, he could tell the 23-year-old was intelligent, and thought his answers during the debates were “articulate and well-thought out.” Noll commented that Hibbs was also polite, formal, and “very mild-mannered.”

What, then, went wrong for the two candidates?

“I didn’t try as hard as I should have,” said Zapien, with a sheepish smile. “I didn’t have enough time to campaign, because it was set right before finals, so I just spread the word and voiced myself … I didn’t really take the time to make posters, sit down at tables on Albany camp sites. I didn’t do any of that stuff that others did.”

Justen Noll pointed to the debates as Hibbs’ downfall. “I think he kind of struggled a little, and I think he over-prepared. I think he kind of over-analyzed and tried to do too much. Based off of how I talked with him in person, it didn’t match up with how he performed in the debates.” According to Noll, his answers didn’t always reflect the questions asked.

Even though the runner-ups would have done a few things differently if given a second chance, Hibbs and Zapien were not without their own political and social visions for Linn-Benton Community College.

In his opinion, Noll believed Zapien had several great ideas for campus improvement, one of which was to develop a strong correspondence between the OSU and LBCC’s student governments. The policy may even be adopted the following school year, he said.

According to Zapien, another one of her goals was to promote more diversity on campus and to unify the school, using methods such as the establishment of a women’s organization and organization of cultural events. The women’s organization would provide support and services to female students in need.

As Hibbs could not be reached for comment, little is known about many of his original policies. However, from what he observed at the debate, Noll said his ideas were broad and touched mainly on Linn-Benton’s academic sphere. Like Zapien, he also discussed improving school unity and what he might bring personally to the position if elected.   

“I wasn’t very surprised,” Zapien said, in regards to her loss. She described the feeling as “neutral,” and admitted that her true purpose for participating in the election was to put herself out there.

“If I won, that would have been the best thing ever,” she said with a laugh. “But if I didn’t, that would be okay, too, because it [still] would have been an open door for me to be more involved.”

In Zapien’s eyes, it wasn’t so much a failed attempt, but a learning experience.

“I think I underestimated myself,” she said. “I thought I would come out with two votes or something. I kind of realized that people did really believe in me; even people that don’t know me.”

Zapien also encourages her peers to chase after any potential leadership position that interests them, as the mere application process “can open up new opportunities, regardless of the outcome”. Next fall she starts her first term as the one of the Leadership Council’s Executive Assistants.

If Zapien’s story is any indication, is there really only one victor in any given election?

Story and Photo by Megan Stewart