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 DelaneyCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer says Trump right on China but wrong on WHO; CDC issues new guidance for large gatherings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what 'policing' means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight 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 says Trump executive order is 'a reckless war on Social Security' Trump got into testy exchange with top GOP donor Adelson: report Blumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections MORE, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden campaign says no VP pick yet after bike trail quip Biden edges closer to VP pick: Here's who's up and who's down Democratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports MORE (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election Warren urges investment in child care workers amid pandemic MORE (I-Vt.), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan dies How Republicans can embrace environmentalism and win MORE, Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Lobbying world MORE (D-Minn.) and businessman Tom SteyerTom SteyerSteyer endorses reparations bill, commits to working with Jackson Lee Progressive group launches M pro-Biden ad buy targeting young voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Jacksonville mandates face coverings as GOP convention approaches MORE have qualified, though Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardFinancial firms facing serious hacking threat in COVID-19 era Gabbard drops defamation lawsuit against Clinton It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE (D-Hawaii) and entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangProgressive candidate Bush talks about her upset primary win over Rep. Clay Is this the end of the 'college experience'? Biden campaign to take over 'Supernatural' star's Instagram for interview 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 HarrisBiden campaign says no VP pick yet after bike trail quip Hillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column Biden edges closer to VP pick: Here's who's up and who's down 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.”