emiliovicenteCHAPEL HILL, N.C. — An openly gay, undocumented immigrant student gained the most votes in his race to become the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s next student body president on Tuesday. But, he and another candidate will compete in a runoff next week, with neither capturing a majority of student ballots.

Emilio Vicente beat out all candidates in the race, garnering 41.08 percent of the votes, according to Chapel Hill’s The Daily Tar Heel. Candidate Andrew Powell came in second with 28.4 percent of the votes.

“Honestly, I’m still in shock,” Vicente said.

Vicente’s story was covered last month by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni. Vicente, 22, is openly gay, Latino and an undocumented immigrant, arriving in the U.S. from Guatemala with his mother at age six. His story has also been shared by media in North Carolina.

Vicente is a junior from Siler City, N.C. He is studying public policy.

If successful in his runoff next Tuesday, Vicente will be the first openly gay student elected to lead the campus’ student government. Additionally, his status as an undocumented student will undoubtedly be a first. He has said he wants to make change and raise awareness.

“I’m doing this because I think I can create some change on campus,” he told The News & Observer. “Immigration is part of my identity; it’s something I obviously can’t take away, being undocumented. But my focus is implementing my vision for the university.”

As an undocumented immigrant, Vicente pays out-of-state tuition to attend school. He and other students across the state have been pushing for changes. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper last month reiterated that the state will not extend in-state tuition rates to undocumented students.

Other colleges in North Carolina have also had openly gay student body presidents. The University of North Carolina-Asheville had an openly gay student body president from 2004-2005. The University of North Carolina-Greensboro elected a gay student in 2008. In 2012, Wake Forest University also elected their first openly gay student body president.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.