Gabbard on possible debate boycott: ‘There is a very serious threat to our Democracy’

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) on Friday doubled down on her threats to boycott next week’s Democratic presidential debate, stating that the Democratic National Committee’s criteria for making the stage poses a “very serious threat to our democracy.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful ripped the DNC’s “pseudo-polls” and “arbitrary requirements,” accusing the committee of “trying hold their own primary election before the primary election even begins.”

Gabbard, who is well behind the contest’s frontrunners in the polls, said she’s thinking about skipping Tuesday’s debate because she thinks the rules have taken power away from voters.

“The DNC and their corporate media partners are essentially trying to hijack this election process away from the responsibility that voters have,” she said.

The DNC didn’t immediately respond to Hill.TV’s request for comment. 

Gabbard first announced that she might skip the Ohio debate on Thursday. She said she would make a decision in the coming days.

The DNC has defended its handling of the debates, saying it announced the qualification for the September and October debates in May, giving candidates plenty of time to qualify. A DNC official also argued in response to Gabbard’s previous criticism of the debates that it would be “disservice” to the party as a whole not to give front-runners enough time on the debate stage.

Gabbard missed the September debate but did meet the criteria for Tuesday’s contest. Candidates had to get contributions from 130,000 unique donors and register at least 2 percent in four approval polls to qualify for Tuesday’s debate. Twelve Democrats made the criteria, including Gabbard.

The debate in November raises the thresholds to 165,000 unique donors and 3 percent in four approved polls. Only eight candidates have qualified under those thresholds.

In her interview with Hill.TV, Gabbard said she is still weighing the decision on whether to boycott Tuesday’s debate “very carefully,” noting that she has not heard directly from the DNC about her possible boycott.

“I’m listening to a lot of the feedback that we’re getting from supporters and just thinking through all of the ramifications of this decision,” she said. “What it really comes down to is how best to make an impact to bring about this change.”

The Hawaii Democrat has long been critical of the DNC’s debate criteria, questioning the committee over its transparency and fairness.

—Tess Bonn

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