DNC finalizes first Democratic debate field after qualifying deadline

Adrienne Arsht Center Knight Concert Hall
A total of 20 candidates will take the stage over two nights in Miami.

The field is locked for the first Democratic debate, set to take place over two nights in Miami at the end of June.

Due to the size of the Democratic field (24 candidates and counting), the Democratic National Committee (DNC) limited the first debate field to 20 candidates, who will debate in two separate events on June 26 and 27.

The DNC confirmed the finalists in a release Thursday evening.

That field of 20 was determined through a set of polling and fundraising qualifiers. Each night will feature 10 candidates taking the stage at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center. Those candidates were able to qualify by hitting one or both of the DNC’s fundraising and polling benchmarks.

— Candidates who qualified via polling and fundraising benchmarks: former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, author and self-help expert Marianne Williamson and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. 

— Candidates who have qualified only via polling benchmark: U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California.

— Candidates who have not qualified via either benchmark and are currently excluded: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska, Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts.

That list is largely unchanged from where the field stood Monday morning, the exception being that Gillibrand has qualified via her fundraising numbers in addition to polling.

To make the cut through fundraising, a candidate had to earn a campaign contribution from 65,000 unique donors. Among those 65,000 donations, candidates also had to gather 200 unique donations each from 20 different states.

To qualify via polling, a candidate was required to earn at least 1 percent support in three different polls from a series of polls approved by the DNC.

Exactly 20 candidates ended up qualifying through these benchmarks, meaning a series of tiebreakers did not come into play.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock came up short in his bid to grab a spot on stage. A Monmouth poll of Nevada sealed Bullock’s fate, when he failed to register at least 1 percent support. He had previously hit that benchmark in two other polls.

One those 20 candidates were identified, they will be divided into two groups: those polling above 2 percent, and those polling below.

Members from both groups will then be randomly split up across the two nights to ensure lower-tier candidates were not relegated to a “junior varsity” debate, as some Republican candidates were in 2016.

The candidates who missed out this time around will have another shot to qualify at the Democrats’ second slate of debates in Detroit at the end of June. The DNC has said the same rules will apply at those debate.

After that, the rules will tighten, raising the requirements for candidates to earn a spot on stage.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


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