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AARP urges DNC to hold debate on issues concerning 'older Americans'

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is urging the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to host a presidential primary debate focused on issues concerning "older Americans."

The request is the latest from an outside group calling on the party to hold a debate focused on a specific topic, something the DNC has resisted. Earlier this summer, the DNC rejected calls for a debate focused solely on the climate.

"As you continue planning presidential candidate debates, AARP urges you to consider scheduling one that focuses on the issues of particular concern to older Americans and their families," the AARP said in the letter to DNC Chairman Tom Perez that was obtained by The Hill.

"Our 38 million members and broader constituency of Americans age 50 and older are very concerned about the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, making sure that Medicare and Social Security are strengthened for current and future generations, and age discrimination in the workplace, among other issues which have not been sufficiently addressed in the debates to date," it continued.

The AARP argued such a debate was necessary to address the concerns of a key voting demographic. Americans over the age of 50 made up about 56 percent of voters in 2018 and 46 percent of voters in 2016, according to exit polls.

"In 2018, voters over the age of 50 made up close to 60% of the electorate - including in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada - and we believe that they will be again be decisive in the 2020 election cycle," the group wrote.

The letter comes as advocacy groups request the DNC hold debates dedicated solely to certain topics.

A slate of environmental groups have called for a primary debate devoted to climate change, while End Citizens United last week urged the DNC to hold a debate focused on reforms to the U.S. political system.

When asked by The Hill for comment regarding AARP's request, the DNC pointed to a Medium post Perez published in June regarding calls for a climate debate.

"These debates are an opportunity to see our candidates engage on a range of issues that matter to the American people and that the next president will have to tackle," Perez wrote, adding that changing its rules to allow for debates on specific topics would amount to "putting our thumb on the scale."

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