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Behind the scenes: Candidate round-tables

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Thursday, April 24th, 2008 at 2:09 pm in 2008 June primary.

I spent all day Wednesday in Contra Costa Television’s Martinez studio moderating — yep, one right after the other — a series of six, half-hour taped candidate and issue round-tables.

(CCTV staffers are busy finishing up the productions. As soon as they are finished, I’ll post airtime schedules and the on-line links to the debates for Assembly districts 14 and 15, county supervisor districts 3 and 5, and Propositions 98 and 99.)

People ask me every time we tape these segments, “How can you keep all those candidates straight?”

Hey, six segments in one day is nothing. My personal record is 22 round-tables in three days. We may break that figure this November depending on the numbers of contested local races. The Richmond City Council race alone had 14 candidates in 2006. (And no, they don’t teach you how to moderate candidate round-tables in journalism school. I inherited the job from my predecessor, Dan Borenstein.)

You never quite know what’s going to happen when you sit down in front of the television cameras.

Yesterday, Assembly District 14 candidate Phil Polakoff’s cell phone rang during the segment and then beeped again when the caller left him a voicemail. We forgave him because he’s a medical doctor, although for all we know, someone was telling him dry cleaning was ready for pick up.

AD14 candidate Tony Thurmond was late for the taping, which earned him a verbal rebuke from candidate Nancy Skinner. “I had a family emergency,” Thurmond snapped back. Ooookay.

We needed fur coats during a very chilly round-table between incumbent Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho and her challenger, termed-out Assemblyman Guy Houston. He blasted her during his opening statements and the hostility between the two of them is obvious. Most of the angst is rooted in the fact that he encouraged Piepho, who worked in his Assembly office, to run for supervisor in 2004. In 2007, he tried to recruit her for his Assembly seat before he filed to run against her in the supervisor race.

In the five-way race in supervisorial District 5 against incumbent Federal Glover, challenger Mary Rocha waited until her closing statement to whip out from her purse an expensive glossy color brochure produced by challenger, Erik Nunn, and complain about the money being spent in the race. (Note to self: Ban purses allowed on the set.)

And in the Prop. 98 and 99 debate, we had a heck of time figuring out who was the proponent and opponent of what. You see, the proponent of Prop. 98 was also the opponent of Prop. 99, and the proponent of Prop. 99, well, you get the picture. Thank goodness, the two people who were debating the measures were patient and kind people.

Tune in and watch. The segments aren’t long enough to give you a total picture of each candidates’ views on a broad range of subjects. But they do allow you to see the candidates in the same room at the same time.

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  • Marvin Lindorf

    In the column on Sunday,April 27th you put Atwater in Southern California. The community is located between Modesto and Merced, a few miles north of the latter.

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    Thanks! I looked up Atwater on Mapquest and I thought I found it in So Cal, but I must have been looking at the wrong place. Now, I know …

  • Bernie Quigley

    I wonder if anyone watches these.

  • Bernie Quigley

    I wonder if anyone watches these.

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    Lord, I hope so. It takes a lot of work to put these together and I gain new gray hairs after every day of taping. As a print journalist, I never expected to spend any time on the air.

    We’re posting the shows on-line on our web site, too. Check my blog for the links.

  • Bernie Quigley

    Actually, it’s a great service you’re providing. This is the only way for most voters to get any sense of what these candidates are about. I listened to Piepho-Houston debate and to both sides in the AD-15 contest. It’s good for you to put links in as many venues as possible. Since the League of Women Voters is a co-sponsor, they should put a link at their website as well.

    I suspect it’s only real political junkies or people with a lot of time on their hands who will carve out three hours to listen to all of these.