Democrats to hold 1st 2020 presidential primary debates this June in Miami

PHOTO: (L-R) Democratic presidential candidates Jim Webb, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Martin OMalley and Lincoln Chafee take the stage for a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas, Oct. 13, 2015 in Las Vegas. PlayJoe Raedle/Getty Images
WATCH News headlines today: Mar. 28, 2019

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced Thursday that the first of the party's 2020 presidential primary debates will take place on June 26 and 27 in Miami, Florida.

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The debates -- a critical first opportunity for candidates in the ever-expanding Democratic presidential field to differentiate themselves from the pack -- will be broadcast live on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.

“Miami is a vibrant and dynamic city that reflects the values and diversity of the Democratic Party. I couldn’t imagine a better setting for our first debate,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement released Thursday. “Throughout every step of this process, we’ve focused on empowering the grassroots and ensuring that we hold the most transparent, inclusive, and fair primary in our party’s history. I’m thrilled that we’ll get the chance to showcase our terrific candidates to voters in Florida and across the nation.”

Additional details on the venue, moderators and timing for the first debates will be announced at a later date, according to a press release from NBC News.

Miami lost out on the opportunity to host the Democratic National Convention in 2020 -- a prize that ultimately went to the city of Milwaukee. But hosting the first primary debate in Miami shows the party's focus on the vitally important battleground state of Florida.

"Miami is the perfect place to introduce our extraordinary presidential candidates to the country," Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo said Thursday. "People are hungry for new leadership in the White House, and after the first debate, they’re going to be fired up and ready to organize for Democrats.”

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses a rally during a campaign stop in Concord, N.H, March 10, 2019. Steven Senne/AP
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses a rally during a campaign stop in Concord, N.H, March 10, 2019.

There are already 16 declared Democratic presidential candidates, and an expectation that more major candidates will announce runs, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

With such a crowded field, the DNC has imposed strict debate qualification standards for candidates.

To qualify for the debate stage, candidates must earn at least 1 percent of respondents in three national or early-state polls conducted between Jan. 2019 and two weeks before the given debate, or have received donations from at least 65,000 individuals across 20 different states, with a minimum of 200 unique donors per state.

The DNC is also capping the number of debate participants at 20 and candidates will "draw lots" to determine which night they will take the debate stage.

A number of candidates, including those just making a name for themselves on the national stage, have already claimed that they have enough individual donors to qualify for the debate.

The campaigns of South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and entrepreneur Andrew Yang have each said that they have reached the DNC's 65,000 donor threshold.

Additionally, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke raked in massive fundraising hauls within the first 24 hours of their campaigns and each claimed to have received contributions from over 100,000 individual donors.