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For an hour this past Monday night, 1,000 interested spectators, mostly from Southeast Missouri, sat in Academic Hall's auditorium at Southeast Missouri State University and watched as the two top contenders for governor answered questions and commented on each other's responses. It was an interesting hour and well worth the effort that it took to make it happen.

It was a coup for the university to be the host of the first debate between Bob Holden, Democrat, and Jim Talent, Republican. The debate gave the university the kind of positive image that is second only to a winning football team or a nationally ranked basketball squad.

And it's not easy to arrange a debate between two men who both expect to be Missouri's next governor. Negotiations for such an event on the state level are every bit as complicated and delicate as the arrangements for the presidential debates.

A key participant in Monday night's debate was KFVS-TV, Channel 12, which gave up an hour of CBS network programing to air the debate live. As a result, thousands of interested viewers had the opportunity to watch the exchange between Holden and Talent from their own living rooms.

The debate itself went off without a hitch. It was evident that planning details had been scrutinized and double-checked again and again. Dave Courvoisier, KFVS anchorman, and Travis Partney, a SEMO student, took turns asking well-reasoned and thoughtful questions.

And the audience was perfect for such a political event. Many of those in attendance were there to show support for either Holden or Talent, but the rest of those in the auditorium were equally as enthusiastic. It was a good night for political cheerleading, and both sides did it with gusto.

Holden and Talent showed themselves to be up to the task of the evening. They were obviously well-prepared and had anticipated most of the questions. The one question that made both candidates pause before answering came from veteran questioner Courvoisier, who asked: What's the best advice your wife has given you? It wasn't an overwhelmingly tough political questions, but it was a perfect way to end the first gubernatorial debate of the season.

The university and KFVS are to be commended for making it happen.