Will the debate even happen?
The next Democratic presidential primary debate is scheduled to take place on December 19 in Los Angeles, but the DNC faces a few challenges.
The DNC received a letter from Sen. Cory Booker, Julián Castro, and all seven candidates who will appear in the December debate.
They asked the DNC to change its requirements for the January debate so Booker and Castro can participate. They want “the DNC to return its qualifications to either achieving the threshold through polling or through individual contributors — rather than requiring candidates to reach both.” From Politico:
“Adopting the aforementioned criteria will produce a debate stage that better reflects our party and our country; will recognize a broader definition of what constitutes a viable candidacy, particularly in the early primary and caucus states where strong organization can outweigh media persuasion efforts; and will reflect the practical reality that the polling threshold has proven to be an unreliable metric, with only four national debate qualifying polls released since the last debate,” the letter reads in part. “With the holiday season upon us, and a brief qualification window for the January debate, it’s vital to make modifications to qualification criteria now.”
Booker and Castro achieved the donor thresholds, but not in polling.
The DNC has so far said no:
But the DNC resisted the request in a statement shared with POLITICO: “The DNC has led a fair and transparent process and even told campaigns almost a year ago that the qualification criteria would go up later in the year — not one campaign objected. The DNC will not change the threshold for any one candidate and will not revert back to two consecutive nights with more than a dozen candidates. Our qualification criteria is extremely low and reflects where we are in the race. Once voting starts in February, our criteria will reflect those contests, which is more than appropriate. We’re proud to have given candidates so many opportunities to get their message across, and will continue to have fair criteria that reflects each point in the race.”
Another DNC official said that “multiple campaigns have privately signaled to the DNC their frustration with the large debate stage and asked them to hold the line.”
DNC Chairman Tom Perez promised a fair fight before the primary began earlier this year. However, the field remains large, even with tightening qualification requirements.
If the DNC changes qualifications could mean former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg could take the stage. He is funding his own campaign, which means he will not meet any of the donor requirements. If the DNC only required poll numbers then he would make it because he has hit 5% in the qualifying polls.
A labor dispute has also threatened the December debate.
The DNC had to move the debate from UCLA to “Loyola Marymount University after AFSCME Local 3299 – the union representing more than 25,000 University of California service and patient technical care workers – and the state school forced UCLA to inform the Democrats and its media partners to abandon plans to host the debate at the Luskin School of Public Affairs.”
Now a labor dispute at Loyola has caused problems. A few candidates have threatened to boycott the debate if they have to cross the picket line:
A labor union called UNITE HERE Local 11 says it will picket outside the event, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders responded by tweeting they wouldn’t participate if that meant crossing it. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, environmental activist Tom Steyer and businessman Andrew Yang followed suit.
“The DNC should find a solution that lives up to our party’s commitment to fight for working people. I will not cross the union’s picket line even if it means missing the debate,” Warren tweeted.
Sanders tweeted, “I will not be crossing their picket line,” while Biden tweeted: “We’ve got to stand together with @UNITEHERE11 for affordable health care and fair wages. A job is about more than just a paycheck. It’s about dignity.” The other candidates used Twitter to post similar sentiments.
UNITE HERE Local 11 “represents 150 cooks, dishwashers, cashiers and servers working on the Loyola Marymount campus.” Labor negotiations began in March with the food company Sodexo “for a collective bargaining agreement.”
Sodexo canceled “contract negotiations last week” after workers and students picketed on campus in November.
The DNC learned about the negotiations last Friday. DNC Communications Director Xochitl Hinojosa “expressed support for the union and the candidates’ boycott, stating that ‘Tom Perez would absolutely not cross a picket line and would never expect our candidates to, either.'”
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