It wasn't that he was nervous. Leach, son of a black mother and a white father, had assembled a veritable United Nations ticket: Sofya Galich, who's Russian, for executive vice president; Sharan Srinivas, who's from India, for administrative vice president; and Nu-Quynh Tran, who's Vietnamese, for comptroller. He knew he had the vote of most of the minority students on campus, many of the campus's Democrats and, most certainly, his friends from the debate team.
According to his opponents, Leach's political party had played dirty. The entire university e-mail system had been blasted with spam urging students to vote for the Roo Party, named for the university's Kangaroo mascot. Sending out the mass e-mail broke the school's election rules. Worse, fliers spread around campus before the election depicted a white master whipping a black slave. Under the illustration was a message directed at Leach's GOP-heavy opposition: "College Republicans Support Slavery!"
It was 10:30 p.m., and a handful of students hung out, munching on vending-machine snacks. As Leach waited for the results, the outgoing SGA executive vice president, Tom Kernan, approached with his fiancée, Sarah Peters, who served in the student senate and whose Experience to Lead, Commitment to Serve party had lost to Leach's Roo Party. Kernan offered Leach a glimpse of the fight to come. According to Leach, Kernan told him: "It'll be easier to impeach you than win an election."
Kernan denies making that threat. But he does say he never liked Leach. Before Leach came along, nobody blatantly spammed the university or put up racially polarizing posters. Kernan and his friends played by the rules. And they lost. It wasn't fair.
"Student government has so many issues to be working on," Kernan tells the Pitch. "I'd prefer to see student politicians talking about the ins and outs of higher-education funding in the state of Missouri or the astronomical pay increases within the university staff as opposed to 'They support slavery.' That seemed ridiculous."
Kernan was about to graduate, but he assumed that his legacy was safe with the senators who remained at the school. One of his closest allies was Leach's soon-to-be nemesis, Kevin Lujin, who serves on the student senate. To sum up his opinion of Leach, Lujin likes to say, "Marcus. Good at debate. Bad at governance."
This past school year, Lujin helped orchestrate Leach's impeachment and removal from office. As the Pitch followed the yearlong breakdown of UMKC's political system, the players and their tactics reminded us of national politics, with deceitful personal attacks and judges being asked to decide elections.
Lesson No. 1: Control the Money Kevin Lujin has been working on a master's degree in marketing for more years than he'll admit. He's famous around campus for being a scary-smart, tenacious gadfly. He's in his early thirties, tall, with blond hair and an unnerving honk of a laugh. He attends countless meetings, sometimes for clubs to which he doesn't belong, dressed in his everyday uniform of tennis shoes, jeans, a blue button-down shirt and a digital recorder on a cord hanging from his neck. Lujin was an enterprising reporter for the student newspaper, University News, until he was kicked off after a dispute with the staff and adviser.