Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events

Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events
© Greg Nash

While House hopeful John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyElizabeth Warren moves 'bigly' to out-trump Trump DNC goof: Bloomberg should be on debate stage Bloomberg decides to skip Nevada caucuses MORE called on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to open a second debate stage for lower-polling 2020 candidates who qualified for past events but not the upcoming debate.

The former Maryland congressman, who has polled at or near the bottom of most national and early state surveys, said it is “in the public interest” to still hear from candidates who qualified for past debates and new contenders who have met the thresholds for the previous events since entering the race. 

“I just think that would be in the public interest, and I think it would be in the interest of the Democratic Party because there would be a broader set of voices,” Delaney said in a phone interview with The Hill.

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“How is it a bad idea have a bunch of other qualified people with their own ideas talking about what’s important about the future of the party?"

Delaney added that he has not discussed the proposal with the DNC, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

To make the next debate, scheduled for Dec. 19, candidates have to amass the support of at least 200,000 unique donors and register support of 4 percent or more in four qualifying polls or 6 percent in two approved early voting state polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina.

The qualifications have winnowed the candidates who have made the cut — only former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden alleges Sanders campaign 'doctored video' to attack him on Social Security record Sanders campaign responds to Biden doctored video claims: Biden should 'stop trying to doctor' public record Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger pens op-ed in defense of Biden: 'I stuttered once, too. I dare you to mock me' MORE, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary Environmental activists interrupt Buttigieg in New Hampshire Pence to visit Iowa days before caucuses MORE (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden alleges Sanders campaign 'doctored video' to attack him on Social Security record Sanders campaign responds to Biden doctored video claims: Biden should 'stop trying to doctor' public record The Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary MORE (I-Vt.), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegThe Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary Environmental activists interrupt Buttigieg in New Hampshire Pence to visit Iowa days before caucuses MORE, Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSanders to headline Iowa event amid impeachment trial On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Sanders defends vote against USMCA | China sees weakest growth in 29 years | Warren praises IRS move on student loans Poll: Sanders holds 5-point lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire MORE (D-Minn.) and businessman Tom SteyerTom Fahr SteyerPoll: Sanders holds 5-point lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire Buttigieg takes dig at Sanders working 'for years' in Washington The Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders, Warren feud rattles Democrats MORE have qualified, though Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardPoll: Sanders holds 5-point lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire Gabbard defeats man in push-up contest at New Hampshire town hall Gabbard on personal meeting with Sanders: 'He showed me the greatest respect' MORE (D-Hawaii) and entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangAndrew Yang's wife, Evelyn Yang, calls for 'big structural change' at 4th annual Women's March DNC announces new criteria for New Hampshire debate Poll: Sanders holds 5-point lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire MORE need just one more qualifying poll each to make the stage. 

Several candidates, including Delaney, have griped that the qualifications are overly stringent and have produced, as of now, an all-white debate stage for a party that touts its support among voters of color. 

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“It would allow for more voices and be more inclusive," Delaney tweeted of his proposal. "What's the argument against it?”

The issue of diversity in the Democratic 2020 primary field was first thrust into the spotlight this week after Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisParnas pressure grows on Senate GOP Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (D-Calif.), the only candidate of color who had qualified for the December debate, dropped out of the race.  

Delaney, a vocal centrist, maintained that his voice is also important in the primary, underlining his early opposition to “Medicare for All,” an issue that is now being hotly contested among the crowd’s front-runners. 

“I think these debates are about ideas, and I’ve got very unique ideas about what we should be doing,” he told The Hill. “I would offer what I would always offer, which is common sense solutions to the problems facing our country.”

Delaney’s debate proposal could mirror the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) method in 2016 as it grappled with a crowded primary field. The GOP opted to hold a debate among lower-polling candidates before a second, primetime event that featured the top-tier contenders. 

Delaney did not clarify a preferred format for the dual debates, but said the RNC’s 2016 arrangement was “logical.”