Dec 29, 2015 11:22 PM

Steinhauser: O'Malley campaign seeks Sanders campaign help in forcing another Democratic debate in NH

NH1 Political Director -

CONCORD – Martin O’Malley’s taking another stab at trying to conjure up another Democratic presidential debate in the Granite State before the first-in-the-nation primary is held on February 9.

John Bivona, New Hampshire state director for the former Maryland governor, Tuesday emailed his counterpart for the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, urging the two organizations to “join together and commit that our candidates will participate in another New Hampshire debate.”

The email was obtained by NH1 News Tuesday afternoon.

For months O’Malley, who's a long shot for the nomination, has pushed for more Democratic presidential debates, often butting heads with the Democratic National Committee.

Regardless of the pressure from the O’Malley campaign, as well as from two DNC vice chairs and from top Democrats in New Hampshire, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the DNC chair, has stuck with her debate schedule of just six showdowns between the candidates. And the DNC has said they would severely penalize any candidate that took part in an unsanctioned debate.

New Hampshire’s only debate was held on Dec. 19. It was buried on a Saturday night during the holiday season and drew low ratings compared to most of the other Democratic and Republican presidential debates held so far this cycle. The showdown also took place almost two months before the primary.

O’Malley has accused Wasserman Schultz and the DNC of rigging the debate schedule to favor Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton.

And the Sanders campaign seems to agree. Following the Dec. 19 debate, the Sanders campaign released a statement saying “the low viewership for the New Hampshire debate on the Saturday before Christmas was not surprising. It’s like someone planned it that way.”

Sanders communications director Michael Briggs added that “we are missing a golden opportunity to contrast our ideas to the right-wing extremism of the Republican Party. This is unfortunate and a blown opportunity by the leadership of the Democratic National Committee.”

Live Free or Die forum on Feb. 3

The Republican National Committee is also allowing only one GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire. But their showdown will take place the Saturday before the primary.

While there is no Democratic debate scheduled in the eight days between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, there is a Democratic forum on the calendar. NH1 News is hosting the Live Free or Die Democratic presidential forum on the evening of Wednesday February 3. Both Sanders and O’Malley have committed to taking part in the forum. The Clinton campaign has been invited to the event but has yet to commit to the forum.

Update from Sanders communications director Michael Briggs:

"Regarding debates, we've been consistent and clear all along that Bernie thinks there should be more debates with all of the candidates including Secretary Clinton. Given the big crowds he's drawing, like 3,200 last night in North Las Vegas and 2,000 the night before in Reno, it's clear that people want to hear more about how to change the rigged economy and the corrupt campaign system that props it up. He thinks the more people get engaged and excited the better Democrats will do on Election Day and we're convinced that more debates would be an important part of getting more people involved."


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