“The clear winner of the Boxer-Fiorina debate was the host college, which provided a gorgeous backdrop and smooth logistics with an army of student volunteers.”
—San Francisco Chronicle editorial
On Sept. 1, 2010, Saint Mary’s hosted a live U.S. Senate Debate in the College’s LeFevre Theatre. While incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer would go on to trounce Republican challenger Carly Fiorina in the senatorial race, the real victor of the debate, however, would prove to be Saint Mary’s.
As a result of a strategic partnership between the College and media partners KTVU-TV, KQED-FM and the San Francisco Chronicle, the phrase “live from Saint Mary’s College” was broadcast into more than a half million California households, distributed statewide to a network of California Public Radio stations and on CSPAN-TV.
Scores of media outlets descended on the College, giving SMC faculty experts and students opportunities to provide thoughtful commentary on important election issues. The debate generated approximately 870 news mentions and was featured in national outlets such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, The Associated Press and the “CBS Morning News.”
The debate fostered increased regional and national awareness of the College and sparked an enthusiasm that was felt throughout the SMC community and beyond. Even the San Francisco Chronicle — one of the debate’s media sponsors — declared that Saint Mary’s was the clear winner of the debate because of its “gorgeous backdrop and smooth logistics with an army of student volunteers.”
Following the event, there was a sense that the College could do more. The staff team behind the senate debate posed the question, “Why not shoot for the stars by hosting a presidential debate for the College’s 150th anniversary in the 2012–13 academic year?” Plans were devised. A state of the art application packaged was created, along with a video showcasing SMC’s gorgeous campus and facilities.
The hard work would pay off. In April 2011, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) listed Saint Mary’s among a dozen institutions under consideration for a 2012 debate.