It's official: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand have qualified for the first Democratic presidential debate later this month, the Democratic National Convention (DNC) announced Thursday evening.


Candidates were required to meet one of two qualifying criteria:

  • A candidate must poll at 1 percent or higher in at least three national or early-state polls from qualifying polling organizations.
  • A candidate must have received donations from at 65,000 unique donors, with at least 200 donors in at least 20 states.

Both New York presidential candidates struggled to secure a debate slot and are likely hoping the debate is an opportunity for a campaign boost.

De Blasio pulled through by getting 1 percent in three qualifying polls. Gillibrand, unlike de Blasio, met the Democratic National Committee's polling and fundraising requirements.

The mayor believed he had hit the polling threshold in six polls, but his spot was still up in the air because he launched his campaign a little under a month ago, and he polled poorly in some polls.


The debate, the first for the 2020 presidential race, will be held over two nights in Miami on June 26 and 27. The field was capped at 20 candidates. Around two dozen Democrats are running for president, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Candidates have been under pressure to meet the qualifying criteria. The debates are seen as opportunities for them to garner more attention and, possibly, donations and support from voters amid the crowded field. Former Vice President Joe Biden has dominated national and many early state polls.

The big question is how much time the Democratic candidates will spend taking aim at each other, and how much firepower they will save for President Donald Trump.

An NBC News drawing Friday will divide the large field between the first and second debate night. Party officials have promised to weight the drawing with the intention of ensuring that top tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights.

Those assignments will determine the debate strategies for many campaigns. Candidates will have to decide whether to go after front-runners such as Biden, challenge others in the pack, or stand out by remaining above the fray.


Some candidates have criticized the debate-qualifying rules that the party chairman, Tom Perez, set this year. The polling and fundraising thresholds will remain the same for the July debates over two nights in Detroit.

"Elections ought to be about people making decisions, not about some rules,'' Bullock said in Helena, Montana. "So I think there's plenty of time to be out there, and that's what I'm going to continue to do.''

The polling and fundraising marks will double for the third and fourth debates in September and October. Candidates will have to meet both marks instead of one or the other. That means 2 percent in the approved polls and a donor list of at least 130,000 unique contributors.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who will appear in the first debate, questioned some of the rules during a campaign stop Thursday, but said candidates have little choice other than to meet them.

"Fighting with the DNC is a little like fighting with the weather,'' he said. "You can rage against the storm, but you will not have great effect. I think the rules are the rules.''

The full list of the candidates who will be on the debate stage

Sen. Michael Bennet

Vice President Joe Biden

Sen. Cory Booker

Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Sec. Julian Castro

Mayor Bill de Blasio

Rep. John Delaney

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Sen. Kamala Harris

Gov. John Hickenlooper

Gov. Jay Inslee

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Rep. Beto O'Rourke

Rep. Tim Ryan

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Rep. Eric Swalwell

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Marianne Williamson

Andrew Yang


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