The first two debates of the 2020 presidential campaign will take place in June and July and could include up to 20 candidates, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced Thursday.
The DNC said the first debate will be hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo in June 2019, with a specific time and place to be determined in the future. CNN will host the second debate the following month.
"I am committed to running an open and transparent primary process," DNC chairman Tom Perez said. "To that end, we've spent months working with media partners to provide this unprecedented opportunity for candidates and voters to get to know each other."
Each debate will have the option of taking place over the course of two consecutive nights in order to include up to 20 candidates from a historically crowded and diverse field. The lineup for each night would be selected at random by the DNC and the networks to "provide each candidate with a fair opportunity to make his or her case to a large, national audience," the DNC said.
The DNC also detailed the criteria candidates must meet to be included in the first two debates. Each candidate must have at least 1 percent support in three separate polls from a list of reputable state and national polling outfits determined by the committee. Candidates must also meet two fundraising thresholds: donations from at least 65,000 individuals, and 200 unique donors from at least 20 states.
Candidates who meet both criteria will be included in the debate. If more than 20 candidates meet the threshold, the DNC said it will use "a methodology that gives primacy to candidates meeting both thresholds, followed by the highest polling average, followed by the most unique donors" to determine participants.
The format is meant to give "all types of candidates the opportunity to reach the debate stage and [give] small-dollar donors a bigger voice in the primary than ever before," Perez said.
Nearly a dozen Democrats have declared their candidacy for president or launched presidential exploratory committees, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren; Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard; and former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary Julián Castro. Several others, like Vice President Joe Biden, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, are also mulling bids for the Democratic nomination.
The DNC came under fire during the 2016 primaries for initially, which many supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders saw as an effort to shield Hillary Clinton and hamper her competition.