ALAN: Welcome to Empire Report. I’m Alan Nuevo and with me, as always, is Beck Russum. Tonight we begin with the story that’s on everybody’s mind.
BECK: That’s right. The UEE is now one step closer to determining who will be the next Imperator. Following a long and occasionally contentious campaign, including a two week voting period marred by accusations of voter intimidation against Tevarin Citizens, the Imperial Election Bureau officially revealed the results of the Secondary Vote during a ceremony from the department’s headquarters in Moscow just a few hours ago.
ALAN: That’s right. The Imperial Election Bureau has finally finished collecting and verifying votes from across the Empire. The five candidates receiving the most support and moving onto the Final Vote are Independent Laylani Addison, Universalist Titus Costigan, Centralist Paul LeSalle, Transitionalist Mira Ngo, and Universalist Illyana Sharrad.
BECK: Imperial Election Bureau commissioner Tyrone Salonen led the ceremony by announcing that this year was the highest Secondary Vote turnout in the Empire’s history. He went on to credit the diverse field of ten candidates for this response, by engaging voters on an unprecedented level.
ALAN: Notably absent from the proceedings was current Imperator Kelos Costigan. A spokesperson claimed that pressing legislative matters kept the Imperator from attending the ceremony personally, though he did comm each candidate to express his congratulations. Some have speculated that Imperator Costigan’s absence might have more to do with wanting to avoid any appearance of bias towards a particular candidate. If true, the Imperator will have to continue walking that tightrope as the two candidates with personal ties to him were among the top five vote getters.
BECK: This includes his son Titus Costigan, whose campaign as a Universalist centered on his business acumen. The self-professed “Outsider’s Insider” convinced Citizens that his success in the private sector, alongside exclusive insight into his father’s administration, uniquely positions him to successfully manage the Empire’s massive bureaucracy.
ALAN: Like his father, candidate Costigan was able to walk a political tightrope by convincing voters that his policies will improve the Empire’s economy while not directly criticizing his father’s initiatives. Darl Arakawa, Titus’ campaign manager, recently told Empire Report’s Victoria Hutchins that threading that needle was key to not losing Universalist voters, who overwhelmingly approve of the Imperator Costigan’s stewardship of the Empire.
BECK: Titus’ relationship with his father, the Universalist party, and its voters may be the most important dynamic during the Final Vote. With two Universalists left in the race, Titus will need to keep as many loyal party voters in his camp if he wants to win.
ALAN: It’s quite the unusual situation, Beck. Particularly since the Universalists have made their preference clear by throwing their support behind the other candidate connected to Imperator Costigan, current high-secretary, Illyana Sharrad.
BECK: Absolutely. Historically, a sitting Imperator would enthusiastically endorse their party’s preferred candidate, but Imperator Costigan has yet to do so. High-Secretary Sharrad and Universalist party chair Aadi Svensson even met with Imperator Costigan prior to the Secondary Vote to pressure him into publicly endorsing Sharrad. Apparently, the meeting became so contentious that it soured the working relationship between the Imperator and his High-Secretary.
ALAN: Making matters worse between the two Universalist campaigns were a series of attack ads specifically targeting High-Secretary Sharrad that hit the spectrum just before the Secondary Vote. Titus’ campaign has denied any involvement with the ads and stated that candidates should succeed based on merit, not mudslinging.
BECK: Sources indicate that this explanation did little to satisfy the Sharrad campaign. With both candidates now in the final five, party allegiances appear to have melted away. Only time will tell how nasty it will get between the two campaigns.
ALAN: For now, Sharrad has continued to focus on her long list of accomplishments as high-secretary. Her record paints her as a skilled and admired administrator who has overseen trillions in infrastructure improvements across the Empire. If elected, she’s pledged to fast track vital infrastructure projects in each system, which has received widespread support from public sector unions across the Empire.
BECK: Despite her sterling reputation and prominent name recognition, the attacks on Sharrad apparently took their toll, as she lost several key parts of the usual Universalist voting block to Titus. A nightmare scenario for the Universalist party, who have fielded two qualified and popular candidates that now seem to be at war with each other. Unless one finds a way to stand out, the two might split the party vote and deny either a chance at claiming the Imperatorship.
ALAN: It’ll be interesting to see how these two candidates pivot to attract voters from both inside and outside the party.
BECK: Or see what kind of effect it will have if Imperator Costigan steps in and endorses one of them.
ALAN: Meanwhile, Centralist candidate Paul LeSalle might be in the best position to take advantage of the divided Universalist ticket. A lifelong politician and former head of the Centralist Party, LeSalle has decades of experience in public service and on the campaign trail.
BECK: LeSalle appealed directly to undecided Universalist voters during his celebration speech after reaching the Final Vote. From his campaign headquarters in Goss, LeSalle pitched himself as the only candidate that could deliver what both Sharrad and Titus promised: extensive governmental experience and a pro-business agenda.
ALAN: With the Centralist Party firmly behind him, LeSalle also seems intent on appealing to independent and Universalist voters. He highlighted his plan to lower taxes, encourage civic engagement by making military service mandatory to receive some social programs, and add revisions to the Fair Chance Act that could potentially open up areas in protected planets for resource extraction.
BECK: LeSalle appears intent on positioning himself as the elder statesmen of the group and has managed to avoid much of the mudslinging so far. Still, some observers believe it to be a tactical decision by the other campaigns to save their attacks on LeSalle until the final round.
ALAN: LeSalle, who comes from a wealthy family in Cassel, swore off their help in his youth when building the hauling conglomerate that would be his self-made claim to fame. His past came up in the news early in his political career when several of his earliest investors were discovered to be in prison for their association with outlaw organizations, which caused the provenance of their capital to be called into question.
BECK: When the scandal first broke over a decade ago, LeSalle disappeared from the public spotlight for a few years until returning to run the Centralist Party. Whenever questioned on the topic, LeSalle consistently maintained his innocence and pointed to public records that show the crimes committed by his former business partners occurred years after their association.
ALAN: Still the scandal could harm LeSalle, who has positioned his candidacy as being tough on crime. Many believe that his political opponents will be pleased that LeSalle beat out the other top Centralist candidate Deputy Assistant Director (DAD) of Advocacy Emma Thorne, as it’ll be much easier to undermine LeSalle’s anti-crime position than Thorne’s thanks to these early business connections.
BECK: While LeSalle has moved to the middle to attract voters, Terra Senator Mira Ngo sees her selection for the Final Vote as a sign that voters are finally ready to embrace her progressive plan for the Empire. In her acceptance of the Final Vote nomination, the Transitionalist candidate promised supporters that she would not dilute her vision to appeal to more centrist voters during the final election cycle.
ALAN: Senator Ngo backed up this promise by releasing a highly detailed policy proposal about how she would move the UEE capital from Earth to Terra. A campaign spokesperson said more information about candidate Ngo’s proposed policies will be released over the coming months because the Empire deserves to know exactly what she would do if elected.
BECK: Citizens in Terra celebrated the news at a massive, raucous rally organized by the campaign. Many within the crowd now believe the UEE may only be months away from moving its political center to the system. A massive undertaking the likes of which we’ve never seen.
ALAN: Have you seen a copy of the proposal Senator Ngo released on moving the capital?
BECK: Not yet. You?
ALAN: Victoria Hutchins is reading it now so she can share specifics on a future show. If she drinks a case of CRUZ Pulse, she should be done reading sometime next week. Many think Ngo has been sitting on this plan since she first got into politics. The campaign has put an incredible amount of thought and detail into it.
BECK: Opponents of this measure have seized on the proposal as well. In particular, they cite an overly aggressive timeline for the move that would relocate several government departments to the Terra system immediately upon her inauguration.
ALAN: Rumors swirled of a divide within the Ngo campaign over whether or not it was prudent to even release this policy paper. Advisor Winnie Attah even left the campaign after arguing that it would turn her into a single issue candidate instead of allowing Ngo’s broader, progressive vision of the Empire to be discussed. Only time will tell if Ngo’s plan to get specific will help or hurt her campaign.
BECK: The surprising final candidate to crack the top five was Laylani Addison, an Independent who focused her campaign around improving education and increasing resources for cutting-edge scientific endeavors. Her support for Synthworld and publicly subsidized universities drew attention and criticism, but nothing like her proposal to loosen restrictions on AI research. The topic became a lightning rod for the campaign that apparently helped catapult her away from the pack.
ALAN: While the Ngo campaign held extensive internal debates over how to handle moving the capital from Earth to Terra, some within the Addison campaign claim they were caught off guard by the candidate’s full-throated endorsement of increased AI research. Several scientific advisors say they were not consulted about the position or didn’t have any idea that the candidate would come out so strongly in favor of loosened regulations.
BECK: When asked for specifics, the campaign consistently failed to provide any. That left some to wonder if the Addison campaign truly had a specific policy regarding AI in mind or was merely looking for a position that would garner attention.
ALAN: Addison’s rise to the final five was undoubtedly aided by her eloquent debate performances that received widespread acclaim. She remained calm, composed, and in control throughout the debates, reassuring voters that she could stand up for herself while not resorting to negative tactics used by other candidates. In a clip that was widely shared across spectrum, Addison spun a vicious, condescending attack by Human First candidate Calvin Derry into a touching personal treatise about why it was important for Humans to embrace alien influences and ideas.
BECK: That really was a powerful moment.
ALAN: I agree, very memorable and moving. We need to take a quick break, but there’s a lot more election coverage once we return.
BECK: We’ll check in on the campaigns that didn’t make the cut, and even speak with Antwan Lillard, who ran on a platform of disbanding the UEE. Though he may have failed to make the final five, Lillard promises to continue the fight. We’ll find out exactly what he has planned, next.
ALAN: That, plus the latest sataball scores from Colt Legrande, when Empire Report returns.