You could get a cup of Starbucks coffee if you were willing to wear a support sticker.
People waited in line Sunday to get into the 1st campaign debate between incumbent for the U.S. House of Representatives' New Mexico 1st Congressional District held by four-term Congresswoman Heather Wilson and current two-term New Mexico Attorney General and a former State District Judge Patricia Madrid.
Campaign marketing was on display. The way each camp spends its money was apparent. Both campaigns offered stickers; Wilson had a table set up also offering coffee; Madrid had about 100 yard signs planted on Natalie Avenue N.E. and stuck in the top of the fence surrounding Cleveland Middle School on Louisiana Boulevard N.E.
The debate, sponsored by the Congregation Albert Brotherhood, was part of its monthly brunch series. The synagogue opened its sanctuary to a near capacity crowd. With its 400 permanent seats, organizers added 50 portable chairs were added and still one wall had people lined along it, yet on the other side of the room there was a scattering of empty chairs. The crowd was estimated at just under 450.
Wilson first won a special congressional election, in June 1998, filling the unexpired term of Congressman Steve Schiff, who died in office March 28, 1998 and had been a member of Congregation Albert.
The run up to elections today differs immensely from how they were run years ago.
“You used to be able to walk right up to the Cessna as the candidate arrived,” said KOAT TV Action 7 News reporter Rod Green, who started his career covering Senator Bobby Kennedy in the Midwest during the presidential primaries in 1968.
Campaigning has changed; while Madrid entered through the front door after offering to shake every person’s hand of the crowd lined up to get into the event; Wilson entered through a rear exit and after the debate scurried out before she could be questioned further by the media.
Madrid’s group staked out a location close to the front door and Campaign Manager Caroline Buerkle dispatched her team like a football coach sending in special plays.
“Is anyone staffing Patsy?” Buerkle, asked, referring to a campaign worker being ever present to assure their candidate does not get into trouble by being drawn into a discussion or having a supporter refuse to release her handshake to carry on a talk.
Up to this point, the campaign has been punctuated by attack and negative television advertisements. Given the chance to speak for them self the attack themes and negativism continued.
In addition to mainstream media, KRQE TV, whose anchor Deanna Sauceda moderated the debate, had three cameras covering every aspect of the event for editing and later broadcast. Other local commercial stations and daily newspapers were represented, as well.
Both candidates had workers video taping the entire debate, and there were several webloggers and freelancers covering the event.
As the debate ended, the candidates’ husbands kissed their wives in support and congratulations; Jay Hone’s wife, Wilson, and L. Michael Messina’s wife, Madrid.
Madrid stayed greeting her supporters as her campaign spokesperson Heather Brewer was handing out press releases declaring, “Madrid Wins First Debate: AG Says ‘It’s Time for a change’; Shows Wilson’s Ties to Bush.”
“Oh my God, it’s all on TV… 30-seconds. Totally commercial.” said former New Mexico Governor Dave Cargo, about today’s campaigning, in an interview after the debate. Cargo has run for several offices since leaving the governorship in 1971.