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

Greg Nash

While House hopeful John Delaney 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.

“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 Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and businessman Tom Steyer have qualified, though Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and entrepreneur Andrew Yang 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. 

“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 Harris (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.”

Tags Amy Klobuchar Andrew Yang Bernie Sanders Democratic debate Democratic Party presidential debates and forums Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden John Delaney John Delaney Pete Buttigieg Tom Steyer Tulsi Gabbard
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