SANTA FE — While Republican Mark Ronchetti and Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham sparred live on air during a hour-long KOB-TV debate last Friday, there were also fireworks behind the scenes.
A Lujan Grisham campaign staffer said on Twitter the Ronchetti campaign had broken the debate rules by having Nicole McCleskey, a pollster and the wife of Ronchetti political advisor Jay McCleskey, enter the studio where the debate was occurring during a scheduled break.
But debate rules provided by the Ronchetti campaign do not explicitly mention campaign staffers entering the studio, though the rules do mention a private room being available for a limited number of staff members.
“The fact the Lujan Grisham campaign is whining about this shows just how badly she performed,” Ronchetti campaign spokesman Ryan Sabel said. “If it makes them feel better, next time our staff will make sure the governor has water as well.”
While it was not specifically outlawed in the rules, the Ronchetti campaign had been instructed not to have staff contact with the candidate during the debate, said KOB reporter Matt Grubs, who was one of two debate moderators.
He also said the Ronchetti campaign representative was asked to leave the studio as soon as station officials noticed her presence.
The Friday evening debate was the first of two scheduled debates in this year’s gubernatorial race. The second debate is set for Oct. 12 and will be hosted by KOAT-TV, along with KKOB Radio and the Journal.