Democrats to start presidential primary debates in June 2019

Thursday, December 20, 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats will hold at least a dozen presidential primary debates starting in June 2019 and running through April 2020, with party Chairman Tom Perez promising rules that will give everyone in a potentially large field a fair shot at voters' attention.

Making public his first in a series of decisions over the 2020 debate calendar, Perez said Thursday that the national party will sponsor six debates in 2019 and six more in 2020. That could be extended if the nomination process drags deep into the spring.

Exact dates, locations, media partners and qualifying thresholds will be announced in early 2019. But Perez says early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina won't host debates until 2020.

The first two debates in June and July will have two rounds, possibly over two nights, to accommodate what is expected to be an unwieldy field. Candidates will be assigned at random, Perez said, to avoid the party picking and choosing who is a toptier contender, as Republicans did during their 2016 primary debates.

"Democrats want to put our eventual nominee in the strongest position possible to defeat Donald Trump," Perez said.

He added that party officials have "listened to voices across our party about how we can make the primary process better" and set rules that "will help every candidate feel like they got a fair shake."

Perez's announcement Thursday comes after months of discussions among party officials, television network and previous presidential campaigns. Mary Beth Cahill, who ran John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, has led the process for Perez.

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