I arrived in Los Angeles for the annual Congress of the United States Student Association early this afternoon, just in time for officer nominations, and those nominations suggest that there’s an interesting Congress in store.

USSA has two national officers — a president and a vice president. For many years, each year’s vice president has run for president at the end of his or her term, and has won. This informal practice has ensured that each year’s president has had a year’s experience in the Association’s national office before taking over.

That apprenticeship is particularly significant given USSA’s structure. The Association does not have an Executive Director or  any other permanent staff — with the exception of its office manager, all USSA’s employees serve short terms. The organization, unlike many student and youth organizations, is led by its elected officers, who are invariably recent college graduates themselves.

So the office of USSA president is a big and complex one, and it would be difficult for anyone to walk into it and be effective without having served a year as veep first. It’s possible, certainly, and there’s nothing in the USSA constitution to prohibit it — each year’s presidential election gives the Association’s membership an opportunity to block the outgoing vice president from becoming president — but it’s not something that has happened in the Association’s modern history.

Which is why it’s interesting that the competition this year is in the vice presidential slot.

USSA officer elections are often uncontested, with the outgoing vice president selecting his or her successor, and the Congress ratifying that choice. (For more on this historical background, see this followup post.) But this year there are two legitimate candidates for vice president — Daniel Ramos of Colorado and Victor Sanchez of California.

I’ll have more on this race tomorrow.