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Sep 10, 2015 12:03 AM

Steinhauser: Call by DNC vice-chairs for more debates follows similar move by top NH Democrats

NH1 Political Director - NH1.com

CONCORD – Less than 24 hours after some top New Hampshire Democrats urged the Democratic National Committee to allow more presidential debates between the party’s White House candidates, two DNC vice chairs followed suit.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, both DNC vice chairs, wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday night that we “believe that the DNC’s decision to limit Presidential candidates to six debates, with a threat of exclusion for any candidate who participates in any non-DNC sanctioned debate, is a mistake. It limits the ability of the American people to benefit from a strong, transparent, vigorous debate between our Presidential candidates, as they make the important decision of who will be our Democratic Presidential nominee.”

“As vice chairs of the Democratic National Committee, we are calling for several more debates than the six currently scheduled, and withdrawing the proposed sanctions against candidates who choose to participate in non-DNC sanctioned debates,” Gabbard and Rybak added.

But two other DNC vice chairs, reacting to the move by Gabbard and Rybak, seemed to dial back a bit on the push for more debates.

Donna Brazile said that while she sympathized with both sides in the issue, increasing the number of forums rather than just debates should be addressed.

“More forums will enable Democratic candidates to build a base for their debates and to attract support,” Brazile told NH1 News.

And Ray Buckley, who’s also chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said he thinks there will be many chances for the candidates “to get their message out.”

The comments from Brazile and Buckley were first reported by the New York Times.

The DNC has sanctioned six debates, with the early voting states each holding just one debate. New Hampshire’s debate is scheduled for December 19. That means it will be buried during the holiday season and will take place a full month and a half before the Feb. 9th primary.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the DNC chair, has resisted calls for adding more debates and for dropping the clause that says candidates can only take part in DNC sanctioned events.

Similar push by NH Dems

The push by Gabbard and Rybak followed a similar move Tuesday evening by some leading Granite State Democrats, who signed a letter urging the DNC to allow more Democratic nomination debates and to not punish any of the White House candidates if they take part in an unsanctioned debate.

State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, who’s backing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the nomination, told NH1 News that “this is America. We thrive on the debate. We have debating societies across the country. Our Senate and House, take for example our Senate here in New Hampshire. It’s a debating society. And debates are a good thing. They bring out the best in people, and in some instances bring out the worst in people, and that’s something that people ought to see.”

State Sen. Adam Hosmer, who also signed the letter, agreed with D’Allesandro.

“I think we should have more debates here in New Hampshire. I think if we have more debates it strengthens our democracy, particularly now when the politics seems to be so polarizing, Hosmer said, adding “I think Democrats have a message of not only civility but real public policy that they can be proud of and we should be talking about it as often as we can and it gives us an opportunity to vet the candidates more and more.”

Asked about the letter from the New Hampshire Democrats, DNC press secretary Holly Shulman told NH1 News Wednesday morning that “we believe that six debates will give plenty of opportunity for the candidates to be seen side-by-side.”

Asked about the DNC’s response, D’Allesandro told NH1 News “I think they’re wrong, limiting it to six debates is crazy.”

And state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, who’s a top official with the NHDP, said “I believe the DNC is wrong. I’m disappointed that the chair of the DNC is not willing to reconsider. She made that decision herself with her staff. I want it to be clear to everybody that this is not a schedule that was run by members of the DNC, run by the executive committee of the DNC.”

O’Malley, a longshot for the Democratic nomination, has taken the lead in going after the DNC over the debate schedule.

He recently told NH1 News that “I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we have at least three debates in Iowa and three debates in New Hampshire”

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who leads the three most recent Democratic primary polls in New Hampshire, has also called for more debates.

And former Secretary of State Clinton, who’s the overall front runner, said Saturday in Portsmouth that “I would certainly be there with lots of enthusiasm and energy if they decide to add more debates.”


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