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Foe of Abortion Loses Reelection in College Presidential Campaign


Glendale Community College's student body president--targeted for defeat by two student groups that said he was too vocal about his anti-abortion views--lost his bid last week for a second term.

Walter Ortiz, a 21-year-old architecture major, lost the presidential seat to student body Vice President Mercedes Delaney, a 19-year-old business student, by a vote of 289 to 193. James Mixon, a third candidate who dropped out of the race but then ran a last-minute write-in campaign, received 35 votes. Mixon had been backed by the two student groups.

The student body election, traditionally routine and largely ignored by the college's 13,000 students, heated up after Collegians for Choice, an abortion rights group, and the Student Voice Coalition claimed that Ortiz's anti-abortion views had impeded his presidency. Members of the two groups criticized Ortiz for publicly chastising students who favor abortion rights and abortion-rights advocates who have spoken at the college. They accused him of being unable to separate his personal views from his role as a student leader.

Ortiz, a member of the Glendale College Republicans and Collegians for Life, acknowledged that he had made anti-abortion statements. But he said his comments had been misinterpreted or taken out of context.

"I think it was dirty and dishonest, and I think a lot of students were taken," he said. "I wish Mercedes a lot of luck because, as I found out, this is one tough chair to sit in."

The student legislature has not taken a stand on the issue. But students became emotionally charged last semester when Collegians for Life, an anti-abortion group, was formed. Collegians for Choice was formed the following semester.

Despite the low voter turnout--about 4% of the student body voted, contrasted with 3.5% last semester--Ortiz said his critics did enough "negative campaigning" to soundly defeat him.

The groups mounted a recall effort against Ortiz, which they later dropped, and publicly challenged him during candidate speeches.

Ortiz's critics claimed victory in the election, even though Mixon lost.

Mixon "didn't win, but at least Mercedes did," said Shaunn Cartwright, a leader of the coalition and Collegians for Choice. "The fact that Walter Ortiz didn't get reelected is what was really important. But he started it. . . . He dug his own grave, and other people merely pointed it out."

Delaney said last week that she won, in part, because she stayed clear of the abortion fray.

One of the first goals she said she has for next semester is to help unite students who are divided on the issue of abortion. Then she will start dealing with the college's traditional problems: lack of student parking, apathy about campus affairs and recycling, she said.

"To repair the damage from this election is going to be hard. It sucked everybody into it," she said. "But I do not know of one time when anyone was upset or felt there was any unfairness in the campaign."

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