Gabbard rails against DNC debate criteria even as she qualifies for next debate

Presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) stepped up criticism of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) over its debate criteria a day after she qualified for the party’s October primary debate.

“There’s been a lack of transparency in that whole process about which polls are selected, which aren’t, which they’re seeing as qualifying, which ones are actually polling,” Gabbard told Hill.TV on Wednesday, reiterating her previous criticism of the DNC.

Gabbard also doubled down on her claims that the DNC’s lack of transparency regarding the debate criteria causes “a lack of trust” among voters. 

“Spending time with voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, they don’t take kindly to seeing how a few people in Washington, D.C. at the DNC are trying to be the gatekeepers,” she said. 

Gabbard had previously criticized the DNC when she failed to make it to the stage for this month’s debate, saying the committee’s lack of transparency in terms of which polls it would accept to meet the required threshold had caused mistrust among voters. 

In response to Gabbard’s renewed criticism, DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa pointed to a previous statement to Hill.TV, saying the committee had laid qualification criteria for the September and October debates in May.

“The polling threshold was set low at 2 percent in 4 or more polls, and there were 21 qualifying polls ahead of the September debate – 21 opportunities to hit 2 percent,” Hinojosa said in a statement last week. “The polling window has also been longer than ever, and there were more polling sponsors than ever before.”

Hinojosa added the DNC had on Monday laid out the criteria for the fifth debate in November.

The latest criticism from the Hawaii representative came even as she met the criteria on Monday to appear on the debate stage in October. 

Gabbard had previously reached the 130,000 unique donor threshold, but had struggled to garner at least 2 percent in four Democratic National Committee-approved polls.

The DNC would have final say on who has qualified for the debate.

DNC officials have defended their debate criteria, maintaining that they have informed candidates well in advance about the qualification standards. 

The fourth Democratic primary debate is slated for Oct. 15 in Westerville, Ohio. Other candidates still have until Oct. 1 to qualify.

—Tess Bonn