With the race for the Student Assembly’s three open freshman representative seats in full swing, Peter Scelfo ‘15 has garnered attention for a costumed campaign pitch, hoping to attract voters with his flashy elvish garb.
Beginning on Friday, Sept. 9, freshmen across North Campus were treated to a fully-costumed Scelfo dressed as “Buddy the Elf,” the protagonist of the 2003 Will Ferrell comedy “Elf.”
Voting for the freshman seats opened Monday and closes Wednesday.
“I had never really thought of any particular campaigning strategies until [Sept. 7],” Scelfo said. “Then, as I was writing my name in class, I realized for the first time that the word ‘elf’ was inside it. I guess that’s when it all started.”
Scelfo said he initially had not intended to use the costume outside of a YouTube campaign video, a parody of “Riding Solo” that he dubbed “Voting Scelfo.” However, after receiving an enthusiastic response from what he believed were intoxicated freshmen that Friday night, he incorporated the elf costume into his day-to-day campaign.
“Drunk people returning from Collegetown apparently really love elves,” Scelfo said. “There were three girls who started jumping up and down on Thurston Bridge when they saw me and ran all the way up to Balch for a picture. I was there until 3:45 in the morning.”
For the last two weeks, a costumed Scelfo has made himself available for photo opportunities at mealtimes in Robert Purcell Community Center and Appel Commons, as well as Balch on the weekends.
“Once that first night went off so well, I decided to expanded my audience to sober people by going to meals dressed up,” Scelfo said.
Scelfo’s “Buddy the Elf” costume, which he hand-washes every night, became an increasingly well-known phenomenon — and a cornerstone of his campaign. He has chalked elf costumes on bike lane signs on North Campus, publicized his name with the middle three letters capitalized and created a campaign slogan, “From Pole to Poll,” around the elvish name.
Reactions on campus to Scelfo’s “Elf” campaign have varied.
“It definitely seems to be an unconventional strategy,” Gabe Motola ‘15 said. “Still, I would say he’s by far the most well-known candidate out there. If any press is good press, Elf is doing the right thing.”
Other prospective voters were not sure if what they saw as a gimmick would ultimately help Scelfo’s campaign once voting began on Monday.
“I think [Scelfo is] doing very well at making his presence known,” Aaron Brody ‘15 said. “But I don’t know how that’ll translate into votes.”
Bailey Dineen ‘15, one of Scelfo’s competitors for the three freshman representative seats in the S.A., said she believes that Scelfo’s unorthodox campaign has transformed the freshman race as a whole.
“Whenever I’m campaigning people will ask me: ‘Why should I vote for you? You’re not dressed as an elf,’” Dineen said. “It has put more pressure on the rest of us to do something out of the ordinary. But I don’t mind; it’s made the campaign pretty entertaining.”
However, some students said Scelfo’s campaign represents an undesirable shift in Cornell’s political dialogue.
“With so many kids running there’s no way to differentiate or gauge the qualities of all the candidates,” Dan Greener ‘14 said. “In that sense, the election becomes more about novelty than about politics. It’s unfortunate that a kid can win simply by wearing an elf suit … The S.A. needs to filter the amount of students that can run; without some cap, elections, as displayed by elf guy, become jokes.”
Whether he wins or loses, Scelfo said he is considering a monthly meal during which “Buddy” would make an appearance, especially as Christmas approaches. As for Scelfo’s political future, he said that he is already thinking of other campaign strategies inspired by all his mistaken identities.
“People thought I was Robin Hood, Peter Pan and the Keebler Elf,” Scelfo said. “Will I run off one of those next year? Probably.”
Original Author: Jacob Glick