Working debates gives NHIOP ambassadors practical experience

September 13, 2022

By Alex Costa '24

Editor’s Note: During the first full week in September, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) hosted four GOP political debates in partnership with WMUR NEWS 9. The debates involved candidates from two congressional districts, senate, and governor. Communication major Alexandra Costa ’24 wrote a first-person perspective about how exciting it was to participate in the political process.

Students working debates
Student ambassador Alex Costa '24 (center) worked the GOP debates on Wednesday, Sept. 7 at the NHIOP.

On September 7, 2022, Republican candidates in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District race took part in the Granite State Debates at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. The three candidates participating in the debate were businessman Robert Burns, Mayor of Keene George Hansel, and entrepreneur Lily Tang Williams. The Kevin B. Harrington Student Ambassadors worked closely during this debate.

There were three tasks assigned to the nine students that helped work the debate on this night. They were either assigned as handlers, stand-ins, or floaters. The stand-ins had a very engaging job with WMUR. Three students stood by the podiums and were asked questions like the candidates in the debate. The team would ask the students to interrupt one another, make large noises, or start fights so the team could prepare for the different angles, quick shots, and the sound team. One of the most humorous questions asked was, “What seat is the best in an airplane and why?” Two student stand-ins debated for a long time between the window and middle seat. This did help create a real scenario of what may happen later on the night.

Other students were handlers for the candidates. They escorted their candidates to their green room where they prepared them for the debate. They had to follow a prompt time schedule to escort their candidates to the set and then the press room when the debate was over. This gave the ambassadors a chance to interact with the candidates and their campaign team.

As a floater, I made sure that everything was all set and ran smoothly with the debates. If there was a chance of a missing candidate, a floater would oversee finding the candidate and their handler. It was also cool working closely with NHIOP Executive Director Neil Levesque, and Program Assistant Tom Case. If they needed anything, they could rely on us to help them.

During the debate, the ambassadors and myself sat in the green room to view the debate together from the TV screen. We gave our input amongst ourselves during different candidates’ remarks and ate pizza.

After the debate, we went to the press room to watch the candidates give their thoughts for the night. Some of the candidates greeted us after their interviews and asked us questions about the college.

Working a congressional debate is a great experience as a NHIOP ambassador. It gives students the opportunity to know the ins and outs of what happens during a political debate. Saint Anselm students are encouraged to apply and join the program.