Saturday, December 16, 2006

James Argento Speaks!

TR: Anyone's that's ever visited my blog knows the name James Argento. Though somewhat generic of a question, where, when, why did you get involved in leadership roles at UF?

James Argento: Thanks Christian for interviewing me, this is a great study break. Although I think your blog is the only place where anyone at UF would still see my name. I am old news.

Onto the question, I came to UF in Fall of 2000, I first got involved in student politics when I became vice-president, and later president, of the Springs Area Residential Council (SPARC). Through SPARC and IRHA, I got involved in SG. I tried the system party (called Fusion). I didn't know about the system v. nonsystem feud.

I just thought it was funny there were a lot of greek kids in the Fusion Party, and I wasn't greek. In fact I was a dorm geek. Back then, IRHA members were backing the system so I was just going along with IRHA. As the months went on, I realized I was more of a non-system guy and not too crazy about how some of the FBK kids were messing around in student politics. I just wanted to get stuff done for the student body and thought all the FBK stuff and deal cutting was a big waste of time and energy. Many FBK kids are not involved in SG politics and don't care about UF SG, especially law students who get tapped for being editor of the law review or something else. And not all FBK kids in SG are bad, however there were a few bad apples who did rotten things to influence student politics and gave their organization a bad name, and that just turned me off. I liked being an independent doing my own thing.

I don't want to give the impression that I hated FBK. Most of the kids I have known who are in FBK are good people and I am friends with them. I just think some take their organization a little bit too seriously. I mean its just a club, it isn't going to get you a political office to run the state and guarantee you millions of dollars. Most of the kids who come into the club and get all that stuff already have inside connections by virtue of who their families are.

In a side story, a friend of mine now in Tallahassee who had joined FBK and thought it was going to open all these doors for him. He went to an FBK meeting in Tallahassee and afterwards comes to me sad and goes "James, it was only a few 70 year olds and a few young people at the FBK meeting." It just doesn't have the stroke it used to have statewide, even though you see a few keys still holding office, like Bill McCollum, and Dean Cannon (I think Ron Laface told me that Marco Rubio is an honorary key). Sooner or later, if the independents ever get their act back together at UF, I would not be surprised to see a non Blue Key become president again at UF (I am not expecting it, but I wouldn't be surprised). In fact, I thought Dennis Ngin would do it when he ran.

To finish up my biography, I graduated from UF in spring 2004 and I am at FSU College of Law and loving every moment in Tallahassee. To the UF undergrads interested in law school who are reading this blog, I say Florida State law school is the place to be, especially if you want to try to get a foothold in state politics. That is not a dig at UF Law students, I just think there are a lot more opportunities in Tallahassee to be involved in the action than Gainesville.

TR: To give students & alums a sense of history, could you catalog what parties were present prior to the well known victory of the Spring 2004 Access Party, what their main ideologies were, and why (or why didn't they) succeed?

James Argento: The Access Party was a once in a 15-year stroke of luck that happens for the independents, in that the nonsystem party somehow beats the greek party at UF. We got really lucky in that the perfect storm formed. Jamal, who was in FBK and Kappa Alpha Psi, and was the sitting student body treasurer, wanted to run for president. However most of FBK politicos and most of the system, including his Presidential and Vice-presidential running mates from the campaign before, did not want him to run. In fact, there are stories of people in the system trying to recruit the BSU president to run for president instead of Jamal, because if they had to have a black president, they didn't want it to be Jamal. They just didn't think he was too bright and could handle being the candidate for President. A few other people were afraid of his skin color, that a black man or woman was not going to be able to hold the system party together.

However there were some prominent members of FBK and the system who were very supportive of Jamal and thought Jamal had paid his dues in the system and should have been the system nominee. Some supported us in both the general election and the runoff.

When Jamal approached me about a presidential run back in the Summer of 2003, I in my mind was finished with SG politics. I had tried my hand in student politics and had my head handed to me. Every party I had been involved in had lost. However Jamal wanted me to be apart of his team. I had known Jamal since 2001 when he had been a candidate for the SUN Party senate slate. At this point he thought he was going to be the system candidate. I told him that he was crazy, and that if we were going to do this campaign, we were going to do it greekless. Sure enough Jamal calls me in late November of 2003 and goes "James your right we are doing this greekless."

At this point Jamal had a good deal of the Black Caucus behind him and we had to figure out away to get other people on board with us. Andre Samuels, the campaign manager and Jamal's fraternity brother, wanted Dennis Ngin as the treasurer candidate. We picked Dennis, and helped get us Asian American support. The Student Alliance (which had been the opposition party) in January decided to support us, so that helped with adding volunteers and senate candidates to our group. We also got Andrew Hoffman and CLASSC on board, which helped us big time in the LS school. Then after we could find no one else who was willing to be our running mate, we had originally lined up a tri delt to be Jamal's running mate for VEEP, but she was pressured out of running by a couple of her sisters. We tried contacting other people, but they were scared to run with us. So with no one else lined up, Jamal then wanted to put Jennifer Puckett on the ticket, he picked her and that got us IRHA support.

The system party was called the Innovate Party, and they were running the sitting Senate President who just did not have as much experience as Jamal. We did some real innovative campaign techniques, no pun intended. We fliered outside of testprep centers and the Russell Simmons event. We had online chats. We also used step shows and break dancers to get campus attention through campus politics. We used the endorsements of prominent Gainesville political figures.

The most important factor in this election was that the Alligator decided to throw its weight behind us to see the greeks lose. They ran a bunch of editorials and stories favoring us. The lynch pin was Andy Marlette, who was the nephew of a prominent cartoonist who drew cartoons for the FSView back in the 60's during the protests at FSU. Andy Marlette drew cartoons for the Alligator showing Access as the good standing up against the evil, and Jamal as David going up against Goliath the greeks. I never got to meet Andy, but i really wanted to thank him for all he did for us. Although at some points during the campaign, I thought Marlette's cartoons were going to create a backlash against us from the Greeks.

Well we won, and that in a nutshell was the Access Party. It was a great moment for me, I felt my four years involved in student politics had been vindicated. I was sorry to see the Access Party fade out of existence, but all good things must come to an end. However I will say this to everyone, I had a lot of fun with Access, but that was college. SG politics is only a temporary part of your life. Have fun and do your best, but remember there are much important things out there.

That race was also interesting in that I got to see Jamal really grow as a leader. He was really gracious in dealing with some comments made by some ignorant individuals about his race and he took it all in stride. On a side note, I still have Jamal's marine picture from this summer while he was in boot camp up on my lamp stand.

TR: James, once and for all. Did you create or help found the Student Alliance Party? While you have told me you were a key 'man behind the scenes,' some of the SA leaders I served with (e.g. Gordon, Offenther) do not place you as an original SAP leader at the time I asked them.

James Argento: I was not the key man, and I was not officially apart of the Student Alliance Party.

Back in the Fall of 2002, myself and a few others were plotting a presidential campaign. I hadn't run a Fall 2002 campaign because I was busy doing real political stuff. The name we were going to use was the Alliance Party. However our candidate backed out in Spring of 2003 so the party dissolved. Right then I decided that my time was up in SG politics. So one day I get a call from a friend of mine who I watch pro wrestling with, named Craig Feola. He and his buddy Ryan Belanger wanted to start a party to combat the Ignite Party, which was the system party. They were going to call it the Extinguish party (get it). I gave them some advice as to how I would run the campaign. Then all of a sudden I read in the Alligator how these two other kids named Jared Allison and Rick Fabiani were forming their own SG party called F***-it, the Rebel Alliance (ala Star Wars). Rick was the cousin of former Bill Clinton and Al Gore lawyer Mark Fabiani and he wanted to try his hand in student politics. I knew that Ryan and Craig wanted to do what Rick and Jared were doing, so I called up Rick Fabiani and told him to contact these two guys, Ryan and Craig. Well the two sides met up and they formed a partnership, they decided to merge their two parties take the Alliance part of the name of F-it the Rebel Alliance and made it into the Student Alliance, which was coincidental to what we were going to call our party. I occasionally gave advice to Craig, Ryan, and Jared but that's all I did. Those guys were great. While hanging around the Student Alliance kids I got to meet Frances and Eric Gordon and all the other great youngsters, like Erica, Dan, Eric W., Brian O, and Jessica Goodwin (who is up in law school with us). It was a thrill to have them all involved in prominent roles with the Access Party. I will never forget the first night after the general election for Access being at the Student Alliance house with Craig, Erica, Jessica, Brian, Frances, Andre, Alicia, and Diane. It felt great!!!!!!!

On another side note, Jared Allison's fiance is in med school up here at FSU, and I got to see him for the first time in years at a med school/law school social a few weeks ago. It is good to see old friends.

TR: Going back in time, please shed some light on the feud between yourself and Ken Kerns. How did it start, was it through the BOCC, Voice Party, etc?

James Argento: Hah. I am friends with Ken Kerns to this day and keep up with him on aim. I don't think he will mind me telling the story. Ken and I became friends through the Board of College Councils. At one point in November 2001, we got into a dispute at a BOCC meeting. When I got home, I wrote Ken an angry email. Ken responded. I then responded in kind. At one point in the email exchange, he called me a slob (In college I was twenty pounds overweight, wore oversized t-shirts, I dragged my shoes, and I had a crew cut) and I told Ken he had BO. Ken and I later made up. The only reason I tell this story is because political people get into fights just like regular students, and sometimes they can be so silly and result in mean things being said.


Well besides the little dispute between Ken and I, there was a big dispute involving BOCC and SG. BOCC funded the academic organizations of the all the schools, the College Councils. BOCC got its own money from the A&S Fee committee and did not go through the student senate budgeting process. However for years BOCC was not the most strict organization in terms of watching its money, although it was better than many other nonacademic organizations on campus. As a result, some members of the SG office wanted to reign the BOCC in. The senate passed a bill back in Fall 2000 to move BOCC underneath the SG, as to where senate budget committee then would do the budgeting for the College Councils .

This measure was backed by some individuals in the SG as a way to weaken the BOCC politically, because these individuals saw BOCC as the breeding ground for independents, and they wanted to kill the BOCC. Most of the people who backed the change just thought the SG would do a better job budgeting. Well the BOCC people fought back. They tried to filibuster the senate. They then ran as the SUN party in Fall 2000, and did really well. Then the BOCC issue was big in Spring of 2001. Ultimately, after a tremendous showing by SUN in the spring 2001 election, and a realization that it was too much work on the SG budget committee people to budget all the organizations under the BOCC, a compromise was worked out by Summer 2001, in which BOCC would report to SG and the budget committee, but BOCC would do its own budgeting with the college councils. I came into BOCC as this compromise was being worked out.

It was a really interesting time to follow student politics at UF, a lot of people took the debate very personal. My advice to all the kids involved in SG at UF is not to take anything personal and to be friends.

TR: What was it like running your version of the Voice Party, what key players were involved, what were you all trying to accomplish? What major points of engagement and/or highlights would you like to share with my readers from that era?

James Argento: When I decided that I was an independent back in 2001, and did not want to be apart of the Greek Party, I started hanging out with all the independent "losers." Well my group of friends included Nick Capezza, and Ken Kerns from the BOCC. Well one day Nick, Ken, my brother Joe, and myself were sitting at my apartment watching a video of Wrestlemania VI (the event where Hulk Hogan lost to the Ultimate Warrior), and Nick says we should form are own party. At that point the Sun Party, the opposition party, was not going to run again and we decided to form the Voice Party. I used the name as a tribute to one of my mentors, Marna Weston, who was the first minority elected student body treasurer back in 1991. He ran as a member of the Voice Party. We got our butts kicked by the Fusion Party, and lost 39 seats to 1. The bottom line I learned is that in politics, you are going to lose sometimes, and lose big. The key to succeeding is getting off the ground and dusting yourself off. I was glad we did the Voice Party because that is after September 11th happened, and I thought having a student body election would be a little step in bringing back some normalcy to the campus.

TR: Since the triumph (S2004) countless individuals have emerged taking varying degrees of credit and/or staking claims of their work in the Access Party. If possible, please tell us what role and/or capacities the following individuals had in Access, some names are familiar, others not so much.

James Argento:

Andre Samuels: He was the campaign manager and he was Jamal's fraternity brother. Andre is one of the best I had ever seen. This guy had never run a major campaign before, in fact on our team, only Frances and I had run student body wide campaigns. But Andre learned and excelled. I try to keep with Andre this day when I can.

Frances Harrell: The best. Frances is the queen of Access and the unsung hero of our party. She originally got her start as a senate candidate for the student alliance and then was in charge of the Student Alliance party. Without her, Access would have sunk. She really whipped our senate candidates into order. I hope she is doing well.

James Argento: Just a guy helping out in his last hurrah. Mike Reynolds on his blog, the Gatorman, said James Argento was not that important to Access (Mike Reynolds was one of Jennifer Puckett's IRHA people who was on the campaign team), and he's right. Mike at one point was trying to hide who he was but I figured it out. I agree with him though, that it wasn't me that made the party, but all the other people on board.

Arturo Armand: Arturo, who had been HSA president was a senior with me when Access came about. Arty came up with the platform for Access and tried to help us get Hispanics on board. I like Arty. He was supposed to come to FSU Law School with me, but I guess he wanted to keep doing student politics with UF. And that's cool cause now he is Vice President.

Lowell Wong: Lowell, who was a Lambda Chi transfer from USF and involved in the College Republicans, got involved with us and helped out. He was a guy who I bounced a lot of ideas off of, and he made a lot of good suggestions to me. I liked Lowell a lot, he was a good guy. He tried really hard to get his bros on board for us.

Please note there are people not on this list who did great things for the Access Party. I loved and appreciated everyone of them, especially our senate candidates, who worked so hard. And we had some really committed volunteers too. Access was bigger than Jamal, it was all of those guys and girls who made it possible. 2004 was such a special year.

TR: Were you a part of the secret dialogue between Access & Joe Goldberg leading into the Summer '04? At the time, I know Access favored Joe thinking he would be more of a moderate than Bryson Ridgway (ironically that proved to be the direct opposite). Your views?

James Argento: I ran into Joe during the runoff of Spring 2004 campaign and he told me he wanted to be Senate President and that he wanted our backing, even though he was backing the Innovate Party. He saw Innovate was going down and wanted to get our support so he was in a better position to deal with the individuals controlling the senate (Access did not win a majority of senate seats in the general election and was not going to control the senate, however we were going to have some sway with those in charge of the student senate).

I felt bad for Joe, he had been humiliated by some SG politicos, to the point where I had heard a story of how someone important in SG circles apparently slapped him at the Swamp just to make him look bad. I mean that is not nice, whatever you think of Joe. I took Joe's message back to our people. I gave my input that we should probably support Joe, however I was graduating from UF and going to FSU so it was not my call. I was not the only person in the Access campaign he talked to. I was not involved in any deal making. In fact, at one point Joe called me up to find up what was going on my side, I had just gotten back from a spring break mission trip and had no idea what was going on. On recollection, I like Bryson Ridgeway, and he probably would have been a better pick. The thing about Bryson though was that there were a lot of sore feelings with his fraternity and the African American community because, Bryson's frat brother, who had been student body president and Jamal's running mate the year before, did not back Jamal for student body president. So there was a lot of resentment.

Bottom line, I never really was into secret political deals at UF. I think political deals in student politics are silly and some people just deal for the sake of dealing. Some SG kids would not just try to cut secret deal with other students, but with community and business leaders also. To the people who are into student politics and are going crazy, take it easy and remember it is just student government!

(From Nick Capezza) James, if you were looking to run a non-system campaign at Florida, what three former campus leaders would you want running the campaign and why?

James Argento: UF today is a lot different then when I was there, and when a lot of former campaign leaders were. So I don't know if old-timers are good picks to run campaigns today. However I would want three people to run a campaign. Nikki Fried, Nari Heshmanti, and Andre Samuels. Nikki won her campaign for honor court chancellor when she was running insurgent, Nari was one of the premier leaders in Vision and SUN. I never got a chance to work with either. I would have loved the chance.

And I got to see Andre up close and personal and can vouch for what he did. So I would pick those 3. And I would throw in my old friends Nick Capezza and Kennita Johnson into the mix of a campaign, both were really fun. We would have so much fun on that campaign the six of us. Now some of the people on my list would not totally get along, but that is what makes a party great, having rivals competing with each other to outdo each other. I don't know if the kids today appreciate how fun campaigns can be.

(From Tommy Jardon) What did Access do to win that has yet to be replicated by any subsequent Indie party (other than Black Caucus support)?

James Argento: It was a lot of networking, a lot of phone calls. Jamal and I (along with Galen wood) used our influences in the Christian Communities. I used my influence in the "real" political communities (the student's who are involved with College Democrats and Republicans), along with the pull I still had in the College Council system. Allison Andrews, who was Jamal's high school friend, had ties to the GLBTQ community. That meant going to a lot of meetings to get people interested.

Bottom line to win, you gotta work hard. Also you gotta be lucky, if the student body isn't in the mood for change, their is no point.

(From Fmr. Sen. Ryan Nelson): 1) If you had to choose 1 or the other: in Spring '04, did Access win...or did Innovate lose?

James Argento: Access won. However we won because got very lucky. Innovate ran a really good campaign, I don't care what anybody says, just the student body wanted a change and actually voted. Chiam Mandlebaum and I ran the numbers after the general election and realized Innovate pulled the regular numbers of greek voters, and they did those numbers without African American voters. Plus in the runoff, Innovate increased their turn out. We just got more votes. The people who ran the Innovate campaign had nothing to be ashamed about, even if some people in the system were unhappy they lost.

(From Chris Carmody) James, we all know that you are a wrestling fan. I applaud such open affirmation of sports entertainment. Give us a breakdown of who in SG from your days best emulate the following personalities and why:

James Argento:

Macho Man Randy Savage: Jeremy Kaplan. Jeremy was one of the independent leaders, just like Savage was a leader in the WWF. However unlike Savage, Jeremy was the first openly gay candidate for student body office. Very charismatic guy, just like Savage. The Macho Man was a really unstable character in real life. You couldn't tell where he was going. Jeremy was very spastic also, but I enjoyed hanging out with him. In fact out of all the characters in SG, Jeremy was my brother's Joe's favorite character, just like Savage. There were times that I got that the feeling Jeremy didn't like me or trusted me, kind of like fans would perceive the Macho Man.

Hulk Hogan: Marc Adler. Now Marc is not popular like Hulk Hogan, in fact in many respects Marc was seen as more of a heel (bad guy), while Hogan was usually the face (good guy). But whether you like him or you didn't, Marc was the biggest star in SG, and still is from what I read on the internet. Hulk Hogan is still the biggest name in Pro Wrestling, and will be until he dies.

The Iron Sheik Tony from the Voice Party. This was a kid who would act just like the Iron Sheik, he had the same mannerisms. I really liked Tony and hoped he was doing well. I haven't seen him since 2001.

The Giant (modern, not Andre): SuperBowl Champion Max Starks of the Steelers. That guy was huge!

The Undertaker Thadeus Bullard. Former football player, he scared me and he was so big. Just like the Undertaker.

Brother Love: John Pughe. A religious guy from the South who told everybody how he loved them. I really liked John spirit, he is a fellow Christian, but he did come off as Brother Love.

Mick Foley: James Argento. Now I was not the most handsome guy in college, I like to think as I got older I aged really well. But I really was the guy who started off that nobody cared about and counted out. That was Mick Foley in a nutshell. He bounced from gimmick to gimick, from Cactus Jack to Mankind, till he just became himself. Then in the end everybody fell in love with Mick after winning the WWE Championship. I like to think of myself as Mick Foley, who was also from a Blue Collared family.

Miss Elizabeth Nikki Fried. Classy woman, just like Miss Liz. I enjoyed my time being around Nikki. However unlike Miss Liz, Nikki was a champion in her own right. (RIP Miss Liz)

The Rock: Jamal Sowell. He was the big superstar and marquee name. And like the Rock who's dad was in the WWF, Jamal's dad went to UF also. My favorite!

Stone Cold Austin: George Kramer. George was not bald and he did not have a beard, but he did like his beer and was from the South. Plus you wouldn't want to mess with George. Kramer, a former student body president, actually knows about pro wrestling, so I had to figure out a way to put him in this list. George Kramer is a great guy, and when we won in Access, he was the first person to send me a congratulatory email.

Jimmy Snuka: Peter Zimek. He was crazy like the Superfly, and I say crazy in a good way. Superfly did some great things, just like Pete. While Snuka was from FIJI, Pete was from Louisiana, and I hope Pete's family was alright from Katrina. Pete is a great guy.

The Ultimate Warrior: Robert Strait. He was with the Voice Party in 2001, and he was just as crazy as the Ultimate Warrior, and when I say crazy in a good way. He had a lot of energy though and a magnetic presence, just like the Warrior. I lost touch with him, but I hope he is doing well also.

TR: Word Association, What Comes To Mind?

James Argento:

John Boyles: Senate Candidate. I really never got to know John well, as he was running for the fine arts school, so I never got to interact with him much. I didn't know his dad is one of the big attorneys at Gray Robinson. I was sad to read he was one of the people who left Dennis for Joe, but he wanted to move up and he wasn't the only one. I am not really following UF today, other than glimpsing at the Alligator, so I don't know how his time as SG president has been.

Michael Rollo: He had big shoes to fill. When he was acting Vice-President of Student Affairs, he held the position following the death of Jim Scott, the previous Vice-President of Student Affairs. I really missed Jim Scott, he was a legend. I was at his funeral. I could just feel God's presence at his funeral, that's how spiritual it was. While I think Rollo did an ok job, I think this new VPSA is doing an even better job. She isn't afraid to stand up to anybody. I got to meet her up at Gator Day in the Capitol this spring, and I really liked her. I wish Mike Rollo the best in his new position though, I am sure he will do a great job, and I think it helps him being away from UF gives him a different perspective. Also Mike Rollo was really nice to my mom and dad at graduation and I really appreciated that.

Nikki Fried: The sharpest woman I have ever seen in UF SG. I mean she just whipped poor Chris in that election, and don't forget Doug Meyers either for honor court. She held the top position in all branches of SG. I first met her in 2001, while she was running for the Honor Court. During the Access runoff, the first question I asked was if Nikki helping the Innovate people. If she was, I had a lot of fears. Bottom line thing I learned is don't mess with Nikki Fried. It was good to see both her and Jared last spring.

Diane Kassim: Good girl. I liked Diane, we did some great work together in Access. I heard she made history by becoming the first Black Senate President. I was sad to read that also defected to Joe. But that is how the game goes sometimes. I wonder how as a presidential candidate she would have been in her own right.

Louise Reardon: State Commiteewoman. I never met Louise, but I knew her sorority sister Anna Shea. She made history by getting a spot on the Exec Board of the Republican State Committee back in 2000. I still don't like how they got rid of her. But hey, that's politics.

Scott Kennelly: Good presidential candidate. Everybody knocked him. But I personally thought he was a better candidate than Jamal. When Jamal would debate him I cringed, even though the debates didn't matter. I think at the end Scott didn't like me, but I wanted to wish him the best and say none of this was ever personal.

Andrew "The Enforcer" Hoffman: Good kid. He was actually on our short list for Veep for Access. However we really wanted a woman to balance the ticket. Andrew was sort of a protege of mine, and he is the second highest vote getter in the history of the liberal arts and sciences college, the first being Becca Guerra, and the third being Christian Duque.*

Peter Gruskin: Bull horn. Him and that stinking bull horn almost got us into a lot of trouble during the Spring 2004. You see Pete would walk around Turlington with a bullhorn and tell everyone to Vote Access. That was against University rules. I disagree very strongly with his stance on Israel, I am very pro-Israel. I however enjoyed both my time with both Pete and Christian.

Joel Howell: Engineer. Joel was my guy. He was the bigshot from the Engineering College. Back in the Student Senate in 2002, there were only 3 Voice Party Senators. Ken Kerns, Joel Howell, and James Argento. He later became Vice-president with Nikki. Joel was the person who pushed for Jamal to be on the ticket with back in 2003, and it is because of Joel we have Jamal. I really wanted Joel to run for student body president and offered to run his campaign if he did. He wisely chose to move on from UF.

Crystal Spearman: I liked working with Crystal. I think she started at LSU law when I started at FSU law. Her grandfather was an ambassador for President Bush 41. Good woman!!

Charlie Grapski: Rebel with a cause. He is always fighting for something. When we won the General election in Access, the first call I made was to Charlie Grapski for some pointers. Jamal wanted nothing to do with Grapski, but I didn't care. A lot of anti-blue key people, and some Keys, privately loved it when he sued FBK. This is the only guy I know to be banned off the Democratic National Committee's blog. I didn't always agree with Charlie's stances, tactics, but he is someone who has made a big difference.

Marc Adler: The best in the game. Yeah we were rivals but you know what, Adler knew SG politics better than everybody I know. You can love him or hate him, and he knows a lot hate him, but wow he stayed in the game for a long time. A mutual friend of ours told me he is graduating from law school. I wish him the best.

Pedro Allende: DU. I have known Peter since I was a freshman, he was out of the Murphree Area. Then he got really involved in his frat, DU. I know he was the guy heading up the system since I left. I hope Peter recovered completely from his accident a few years ago.

Chris Carmody: My old mentor. We were both in IRHA together, and he schooled me in the ways of SG. We later parted company, he disagreed with the way I wanted to do things, I disagreed with the way he did things. We always stayed friends and someone I could talk to about SG. I am very excited for the impending marriage of Chris and Lauren Fackender. I wish him the best at Gray Robinson.

TR: T-R-I-V-I-A: Ballots, security, the lights went out, member of the deans office quits under cloud of suspicion, new SB President, democracy? What's the answer to the Keyword Trivia game: year, party, candidate, and outcome.

James Argento: I think you are referring to the 2001 Spring Election, although I don't know if a member of the dean's office quit because of any activity during that particular election. That was when Marc Adler (Fusion) won by 16 votes against Gil Sanchez (SUN). I think the power went out that night, or someone tripped over a cord, I forget what exactly happened. I know a lot of people had questions about that election, but people always have questions about any close election, especially in the state of Florida.

TR: As a senator, an independent one at that, you initially opposed the concept of intranet on-campus voting. What are your current views on the concept of internet voting at UF and/or FSU? Do you think that internet voting sacrifices the 'integrity of the ballot'?

James Argento: I don't agree with internet voting, or any form of electronic voting. It is too easy to tamper it. They have already proved that. I didn't agree with it at FSU or at UF. You need paper ballots that can be recounted. You can't recount electronic votes.

TR: How does SG at FSU compare to UF? Which block has more sway, the African American community of the IFC/PC Greeks? Also to what extent are the following blocs at FSU-SG mobilized?:

James Argento: I finally got to achieve one my dreams and be a student body officer. I did it at FSU though, as the Student Body Attorney General. At FSU Student Body Attorney General is the third ranking position in the executive branch of SGA, under the president at veep. However in my position I stayed nonpartisan and handled the "legal work" of the SGA.

My observations of FSU, are that the African American along with the Greeks control everything. Although it seems the African Americans are the dominant ones, especially the Alphas. FSU SGA is interesting, the elections are not as serious as UF elections, although there are parties, including the Voice and Insight parties.

Hispanics: A bit more influence than they have had UF. The former senate president was a member of this community.

Asian-Americans: Same amount of influence it seems.

LGBTQ: A bit more influence, the current senate protemp is a member of this community.

Indies: GDI: There are more nongreeks in the system here, I think FSU's system is more accepting of non-greeks. But hey there is now a nongreek prez of UF so what can I say.

Religious: There is a thriving Christian community at FSU, and Jewish and Islamic communities, however they are not involved in student politics at FSU. The other great story of Tally is not just FSU, but FAMU. They have an amazing SGA community. This kid Philip Agnew, who is student body president is one of the most amazing speakers I have seen, and Andrew Gillums little sister is the student body veep there is what Philip told me. They work really hard at FAMU SGA.

TR: Tell us about the work to bring Gator Christian Life to FSU, what has been done, what role you played, and any props you 'd like to send out to any and all at UF and FSU that helped out.

James Argento: Well I am apart of Firebrand Christian Fellowship, which is a church plant by GCL at Tallahassee. We seem to be doing well. I always want to send props out to all my friends, and people who may not be my friends, at both UF and FSU, if they read this blog. Life is too short to hold grudges.

TR: I don't think people realize how tense the Summer '04 was. I'm sure you were informed of the constant impeachment concerns? What were you up to that post-graduation-summer?

James Argento: I was in South Florida trying to lose weight before I started law school. I was not heavily involved. I did however talk to Jamal and Andre over that summer. Jamal called me up while I was in Chicago for a family reunion and told me they were thinking of impeaching him. He was really discouraged. I told Jamal to hang in there, and knew that the administration would not allow the kids who wanted to impeach him to do it. Sure enough nothing ever came of it.

TR: I know we had some discussions about this, but the readers are in the dark insofar as your thoughts on the matter go. What issues or concerns did you have with Rod Smith and/or his campaign efforts (once eliminated from the primaries) towards the Democratic candidate for governor, Jim Davis?

James Argento: I was concerned he was not visible enough and helping out enough. I kinda knew a few weeks after the primary Davis was going to lose to Crist, I had heard from one of my lobbyist friends in town who was calling around for money for him back in September that Jim wasn't going to have the money because there were more winnable Democratic governors races (Neither Rod or Jim had the name to attract national donors). If any national money came in, it would be in late October and it would be too late. But I thought whomever won the primary should have made more of an effort to help the campaign of the other. With that said I think Crist will do a good job. A few of my friends from FSU will be working for the Crist administration in positions of great influence, and I have a lot of faith in these friends of mine in helping Crist run the state. Also having a cabinet with a democrat on there is going to make for interesting times in Tallahassee. I am glad to be up here for at least a 8 more months.

TR: Having successfully taken on the CT-Democratic Party, one of the strongest political machines on the East Coast, do you think Joe Lieberman has become a stronger leader in his own right? Would be fare better as an Indie Presidential candidate than garnering 7-10% in DNC primaries? And, given his base of support would you agree with me, that if Joe ran, he would be the first 3rd party candidate (since Wallace & Byrd) to garner electoral votes?

James Argento: Well the CT Dem machine was not working against Lieberman, as Lamont did not mobilize the Democrats. A number of local democrat leaders were backing Lieberman, and a number of the leaders in the party, who endorsed Lamont publicly, were more for Joe than people thinking. The day for running for prez as an indy may come if you find a popular candidate. I don't know if Lieberman could do it, but he did win the national popular vote as apart of the ticket in 2000. I think Joe is happy to be in the Senate. It would be interesting if John McCain, as a Republican needed a running=mate, and he picked Lieberman, and Lieberman would be the first man on both tickets. But Joe is a Democrat in his registration still, so that is that.

TR: Any parting words James?

James Argento: It is a pleasure to have done this really extensive interview. I enjoy talking about my UF SG time, but I am glad that part of my life is over.

With that said, I hope nothing I said in this interview offended anyone. I tried to be as honest as I could be, but my recollection could be off since what I wrote is a few years old. God Bless!!!


Anonymous said...

Well, I do have to agree with James after thinking about the Spring 2004 election. Innovate really did run a fantastic campaign, regardless of the outcome. They had tons of support and money. They had really high numbers also. And they were hell to campaign against. LOL

Christian Duque said...

Actually I came in fourth;

1. Becca
2. Andrew
3. Eric
4. Me, WOO HOO!
5. MacKenzie

*Historical Accuracy is Key.

Anonymous said...

Christian this was your best interview yet. Honestly I was not even looking forward to it, but I did recognize some of the names mentioned in it.

Anonymous said...

Who cares?

Anonymous said...

Not me...

Anonymous said...

why is it the young people don't care? I appreciate the history, and he brings such a unique perspective.

Anonymous said...

His perspective is hardly unique and history? He even admits in his own interview to not being the part of history everyone makes himself out to be.

Pedro said...

James looks a lot like the Governor of Puerto Rico. (Anibal Acevedo-Vila)

Pedro said...

James looks a lot like the

>Governor of Puerto Rico.

The above post did not have the active hyperlink!

Anonymous said...

As someone who has knew James in undergrad, it seems James is selling himself short in regards to Access? He really downplays his role in Access. What do you think Christian, you know him.

Jimmy Choo said...

Excellent interview. I'm sad to see that some of the younger crowd don't appreciate this. Indies and system kids alike could learn a lot from the very wise Mr. Argento.

Christian Duque said...

With all due respect to current Indie leaders, James was the last of a great era. Both James AND Frances rarely took the credit they deserved; while I agree with James that Andre ran Access (and I even thanked him in front of the Senate [I just didn't make a career out of kissing his ass]), I believe James [and Frances] are far-to-modest when it comes to their critical role(s) in the success of the Yellow & Blue.

I also really like how James tries to build the current Indies' morale by insisting Access was just luck, I assure you all that was not it. We worked our asses of, went to sleep at 1, 2am to wake up at 6am, luck my ass, we worked hard and no one knows about that work better my SG mentor, James Argento.

You gotta love James. He put his heart and soul into Access and had the humility to walk away and virtually get no credit and be at peace with that. Show me an Indie leader at UF that's fit that bill since James or Frances Harrell.

There haven't been any.

Anonymous said...

Yawn. Irrelevent again Duque. Nice.

Anonymous said...

I will say this, and I am not necessarily a big fan of this blog, but Argento is one of the nicest classiest guys you will ever find. I know Republicans, myself included, who say if they ever vote for one Democrat, it would be Argento.

Anonymous said...

even though i am not a fan of the blog, i did like this interview

Christian Duque said...

Even though you guys aren't "big fans of this blog" you're here everyday :o)

I for one love this blog :)

Anonymous said...

hah, your right!!!!

Anonymous said...

Come on Christian, you don't think any of the indie leaders since James and Frances have been as good? Sure they haven't been as sucessful, but you have to have respect for some of them! I wonder what James would think about that.

Anonymous said...

I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone as genuinely nice and bright as James in either the indie or system camp. His work as AG at FSU further validates just how dedicated he is to service at his universities.

Christian Duque said...

What I enjoyed most about the interview was the BOCC/SG feud. TR has never claimed to be an 'insider blog,' I write about current affairs affecting SG, interview it's current people, and then also talk to those that came some time ago. It's a nice way to spend a half hour to an hour a day.

I was only in SG for about 2yrs in various roles, but having witnesses a militant BOCC is unfathomable to me because I always saw BOCC as strictly a budgetary group with ceremonial powers, I didn't think it had any kind of cohesive effect with its members councils and furthermore I didn't think college councils had any real sway over their colleges. Example:

A senator fo LS needs to get more exposure and needs to get a truckload more votes to get elected a senator of the college than would a person running to be the president of the college council. Then again, the Pres of the College Council carries more weight, but with who? I think SG would listen more to a popular college senator than a college council president. Idk.

And so THAT, the militancy of BOCC as an institution-at-large to go off and create its own party and try to beat SG at its own game and fare pretty damn well, that's what got me .

Idk, I really enjoyed learning about that b/c I had no clue.

Anonymous said...

Christian, I never knew James well, he probably was the best speaker during his time in SG.

Anonymous said...

umm, no

Anonymous said...

The difference with CLASSC and LS senators is that the CLASSC president is supposed to deal with the college and their academic concerns. Working with the Dean's office and their budgetted organizations to put on programming for the college. Senators are political, college councils are just kids who love their college and what it does. Anyone who joins a college council to get involved with SG is a fool, and the two entities should be as separate as possible.

SG may listen to a senator, but the Dean will listen to the council

Anonymous said...

12:01 I have to disagree with you, I thought James was one of the best at UF. He had a real gift for speeches.

Anonymous said...

James was a terrible speaker with a slovenly appearance. Many speakers in SG have been much better than him and I will list them if dared.

Gavin Baker said...

Well, I feel glad knowing I'm not the first SG'er to have a less-than-impeccable appearance. (I'll put my effort into my words and actions, not my wardrobe, thanks) Following in good footsteps!

Anonymous said...

Much like mr. duque, I am a friend of James. If you look at the pic and his facebook pics, it looks if Argento has cleaned up over the years. James even admitted to being slovenly in apperance and overweight when he was at UF, but hey isn't that what being in college is all about. Well not if you are in a frat or sorority (joke).

Anonymous said...

I am reading through the independent alligator, Argento could not have been that bad of a speaker if Jamal Sowell picked him to introduce him when he was running for president. I don't know much about him, but do you think Argento would have made into FBK if he tried to join?

Anonymous said...

Christian... I say if you want to reach 20,000 by 2007, you open a thread free to speculate on anything SG... on S2007, S2009, future Sen. Pres., Pro Temp., chairs, keys, whatever. I seem to remember this got many responses on Ken Kern's blog, which isnt nearly as popular as yours. Oh, and it was fun ;-).

Anonymous said...

I meant S2008 by the way.

Christian Duque said...

I already hit 20k. My pc is out, GD HP! I already changed the power source and nothing, now it's time to take it to the shop or buy a new one.

I'm glad you guys are talkin with regards to James' Q&A, he was really one of the most gifted SG'ers of his time, bar none. None of that 'he was at the right place at the right time' business, he was the reason it was the right time, he helped create the conditions through his leadership to make for the 'right times' that many of us enjoyed.

Maybe I'm being modest now. IDK, James was definitely a great leader in the Y&B. There were three factions, Andre's (the largest), Frances (SA), and James (the non-aligned GDI's).

Peace Out O.G. Argento.

old school said...

Hey all its JA, I have really enjoyed reading this thread and the reaction to the interview. I hope you all have had a merry christmas, happy hanukah, crazy kwanza, and solem ramandan.

Some of my old friends thought I was crazy for giving an interview about SG to Christian's blog. Rich Rodriguez, who is at FSU COM said "Argento get over the SG." I am over it and I think the interview showed it. What I hoped to do with this oppertunity Christian gave me was try to tell the sg kids that there is life after sg so don't take it too seriously.

I appreciate all the nice comments, and I have adopted the picture of the Governor of Puerto Rico as my facebook pic. In regards to my apperance in college, I was so slobby back then, but hey thats college. People change however. Maybe the problem with UF SG was the kids were too worried about their apperances than getting stuff done. I like to think I gave some great speeches (I don't know if I was the best speaker, I was complemented on many of my speeches) at both UF and FSU, but speeches are in the eye of the beholder.

When you get a chance take a look at this story about my professor who was diagnosed as having ALS

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reminder. Read the old comments about Spring 07 on Ken's blog for some entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Read this interview, don't just skim it. I think he makes some really good points that all students should keep in mind while doing student government.

I hope the Nina and Carmody interviews are as good.