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

While House hopeful John DelaneyJohn DelaneyThe 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 Minnesota AG Keith Ellison says racism is a bigger problem than police behavior; 21 states see uptick in cases amid efforts to reopen The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan says there will be consequences from fraying US-China relations; WHO walks back claims on asymptomatic spread of virus 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?”

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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 BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegScaled-back Pride Month poses challenges for fundraising, outreach Biden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE, Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-Minn.) and businessman Tom SteyerTom SteyerBloomberg wages war on COVID-19, but will he abandon his war on coal? Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil Ocasio-Cortez, Schiff team up to boost youth voter turnout MORE have qualified, though Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardGabbard drops defamation lawsuit against Clinton It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process 125 lawmakers urge Trump administration to support National Guard troops amid pandemic MORE (D-Hawaii) and entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangGeorge Floyd protests show corporations must support racial and economic equality Andrew Yang discusses his universal basic income pilot program Andrew Yang on the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis 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 HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump 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.”

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