By Hillary S. Meeks
Killeen Daily Herald
Will the war in Iraq influence the way Americans vote this Tuesday?
Journalists from the PBS news magazine show "NOW" seek to answer that question in tonight's episode by interviewing people from Killeen and the rest of Texas' 31st Congressional District. The show will air at 7:30 p.m. on local PBS television station KNCT.
William Brangham, producer of tonight's show, said the 31st Congressional District was chosen for two reasons: it is one of the most pro-war districts in the nation, and the congressional race between Republican Congressman John Carter and his opponent, Democratic nominee Mary Beth Harrell, "seemed to be a race that touched on the war quite directly."
Brangham said he and his crew took a full week to cover the district, which encompasses Erath, Coryell, Bell, Hamilton, Williamson, Milam and Falls counties. He said the answers of those interviewed were consistent as far as the war's impact on voting.
"We did speak with some people who felt like other people might not think about the war, but we couldn't find a single individual who said, 'The war won't be on my mind when I will be in the voting booth,'" he said.
Joel Schwartzberg, senior producer of the show, said a district that heavily supports the war was chosen because it is a "fair and unbiased" approach. The intent is to satisfy civil leaders who don't like the way the war is being "prosecuted" by the media, he said.
"One thing to make clear is there is generous time given to both John Carter and Mary Beth Harrell, and the focus of the story is as much on the people of Killeen as it is the politics," Schwartzberg said.
What he found most interesting about the congressional race was that many traditionally Republican voters have turned their support to Harrell. He said she has found a way to connect with constituents through a platform that disagrees with the way the war is currently being handled.
Schwartzberg said Carter, who is widely known for supporting the war and President George W. Bush, is also known for his unwillingness to debate Harrell.
"We recognize that there haven't been a lot of opportunities to see Ms. Harrell and Mr. Carter together and compare their perspectives in a single setting," he said. "That's why we feel this program is so important, particularly to the constituents one of them will be representing."
Brangham and his crew joined both candidates at various campaign events, he said. But it was the dozens of people in between, from businesses to football games, who lent the most important perspectives to the crew, even when they weren't filming.
He said what struck the group the most about their travels was the area's consciousness of war, especially in Killeen.
"With Fort Hood ever present, you can't get away from the war ... every business, every store, everywhere you turn was a reminder that our country is in conflict," he said.
Contact Hillary S. Meeks at firstname.lastname@example.org