The 2020 Democratic primary is poised to be one of the most contentious in history, with upwards of 20 candidates vying to win the party’s nomination and take on President Trump in the general election. Adding to the tension is the controversy that surrounded the 2016 primary, when the Democratic National Committee came under fire for limiting the number of debates, which many perceived as a maneuver prevent challengers to Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, particularly Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), from gaining momentum.
DNC Chairman Tom Perez doesn’t want to have the same problem again in 2020. In December, the DNC announced that it will hold a total of 12 primary debates, six in 2019 and six in 2020.
The first debate will be held on June 26th and 27th in Miami, Florida, and will be broadcast live on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. “Throughout every step of this process, we’ve focused on empowering the grass roots and ensuring that we hold the most transparent, inclusive and fair primary in our party’s history,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement. “I’m thrilled that we’ll get the chance to showcase our terrific candidates to voters in Florida and across the nation.”
The second debate will be held on July 30th and 31st in Detroit, Michigan, and will be broadcast live on CNN. “Detroit embodies the values and character of the Democratic Party,” Perez said in a statement. “It’s a city of grit and determination, a city that has gotten knocked down only to get back up stronger. With its diversity, its storied history, and its proud ties to the labor movement, Detroit is the perfect place for our party’s second debate.”
The debates will be held on back-to-back nights due to the historically large field of candidates. According to Perez, the format is meant to give “all types of candidates the opportunity to reach the debate stage and [give] small-dollar donors a bigger voice in the primary than ever before.”
The lineups for both sets of debates will be chosen at random from the candidates who qualify, with half taking the stage on the first night, and half taking the stage on the second night. To qualify, candidates must register at least one percent support in three independent state and national polls determined by the DNC. Candidates must also receive at least 65,000 unique donations, including at least 200 from 20 different states. The DNC has capped the number of debate-eligible candidates at 20. If more than 20 candidates qualify, polling averages and donation numbers will factor into how those who make the cut are determined.
The DNC has said that it will release additional details, including the time of the debates, at a later date.