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Democratic Party boss pushes back on criticism: Debate rules ‘very transparent,’ ‘very inclusive’

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Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom Perez defended the party’s debate stage requirements as “transparent” and “inclusive” amid criticism on Tuesday from some presidential candidates over the lack of diversity among the six participants that will be on stage in Iowa. 

“We made the rules, they were very transparent, they’re very inclusive, and we can’t change the rules midstream because there’s a candidate that I wish were on but didn’t make the debate stage,” Perez said Tuesday morning on CNN’s “New Day.” 

His comments came after former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), a late entry to the field, released a statement slamming the “leadership of the Democratic party” for choosing criteria that has “not served to demonstrate” to voters the “breadth and depth of diverse talent in the field.” He called for a reconsideration for the criteria for participating in future debates. 

“I love Deval Patrick, he is my former boss, I think the world of him,” Perez said. “He is polling at about 1 percent right now in the national polls.” 

Perez defended the criteria, saying that candidates had to reach “5 percent in four out of 23 polls” leading up to the debate. 

“Let me give you a point of reference,” Perez added. “Four years ago, you needed to average 5 percent in the five polls leading up to Iowa. So the bar was much higher in the past.”

“What we said every month was that the closer we got to Iowa we would do what we’ve always done, which is raise the bar,” he said. “And last month we had eight people who made the debate stage, three women two candidates of color and an openly gay candidate. Remarkable diversity.”

The six candidates set to appear on stage Tuesday are all white. Perez pointed out that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who dropped out of the race, made the debate stage last month and he had “no doubt” she would’ve qualified again. 

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) had also been critical of the lack of diversity in the field and in the late debates. Booker ended his campaign Monday. He had not qualified for Tuesday’s debate or the debate in December. 

The candidates who qualified for the debate are former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) and billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Cory Booker Deval Patrick Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Pete Buttigieg Tom Perez Tom Steyer
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