The Student Member of the Board (SMOB) nominating convention was held on Feb. 20, culminating in the nomination of Kennedy’s Nate Tinbite and Clarksburg’s Zoe Tishaev.
Over 40 students participated in the convention, the most ever. However, unlike the SMOB forum held earlier this month, the candidates were not nearly as prepared. Candidates responded to questions with a restatement of a previous candidate’s, and even worse, some did not respond at all.
Both candidates from this school, sophomore Anirvan Ayyagari and junior Jaden Wang, outshone the competition. Both answered the questions quickly, while still giving actual answers to the county’s problems. This was a surprise for many Wootton attendees, given the performance by Wang at the forum, which left many uncertain about his candidacy.
Candidates faced questions from SGA members from across the county, including from this school. Some thought highly of this schools’s candidates’ responses to the questions. “I thought Ayyagari and Wang both had great solutions to our dire problem of not having nearly enough counselors in the county,” junior Ian Wolfe said.
Both candidates performed so well, that when the vote to narrow down the candidate list to seven came, both made it into the top seven, with Wang coming in third and Ayyagari seventh. Tinbite received over half of the total votes in the first round, being the nominated candidate of the Montgomery County Regional Student Government Association. “Once the results of the first round came in, it was only a race for second place,” junior Tony Ricciardella said.
The second round debates are where things heated up. Ayyagari attacked the Montgomery County Region Student Government Association, MCR-SGA, and past SMOBs for misusing the budget and their power instead of focusing on the county’s issues. Ayyagari then had his microphone cut mid-speech in a video that has since gone viral. The convention claims that they cut his mic due to a joke made earlier in the speech about Yale, and although no written rule is made about such a violation, they claim that it was a verbal rule. Ayyagari is now pursuing legal action through the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, on free speech grounds. “A verbal rule isn’t a real rule,” Ayyagari said.
Soon after Ayyagari’s mic was cut, MCR moved to voting. The two candidates who received the most votes, Tinbite and Tolawski, will go onto the general election on Apr. 26, where all MCPS students will vote for the next SMOB. Ayyagari finished last out of the seven finalists, while Wang came close to the top two, finishing in third by just a dozen votes.
For Wang, this marks the end of his candidacy. As a junior this year, he cannot run again for the position, making a third place finish all the more disappointing. For Ayyagari, this is a new beginning. Although public denouncal from MCR-SGA makes it unlikely he would win next year if he ran, he could still benefit from their oversight of writing all the rules on the contract signed by the candidates before they were allowed to run.
ACLU funding could help push his case into brand new territory not yet covered by the courts, and set a precedent for SMOB campaigns long into the future.