Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Politics

DNC chairwoman heckled over debate schedule at New Hampshire convention

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee was heckled here on Saturday as she addressed a gathering of state party activists, some of whom feel strongly that there should be more presidential debates than the national party has sanctioned.

Shortly after Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the DNC chairwoman, took the stage, calls of "more debates" coursed through the hall at a convention of the New Hampshire Democratic Party attended by more than 4,000 people.

Six Democratic debates have been sanctioned by the DNC starting next month. Four of those will take place before the first nominating contest in Iowa.

Wasserman Schultz, who was a guest speaker on Saturday, ignored the calls at first, but then acknowledged them, telling the crowd: "C'mon folks, we are all on the same side, so let's make sure we focus on the Republicans."

Later, as chants of "We want debates" began and grew louder, Wasserman Schultz said: "Enough is enough, we have a job to do. Let's focus on the task at hand."

Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, one of the Democratic presidential hopefuls, has been particularly vocal about the debate schedule, accusing the DNC of "circling the wagons" to limit the exposure of the party's front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

On Saturday, he told reporters here that it is "party malpractice" to let Republicans get all the exposure they have for their debates without scheduling more Democratic encounters.

He called the Democratic calendar a "one-woman edict" by Wasserman Schultz.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who has been gaining on Clinton in the polls, has also said he'd like to see more debates.

The DNC has maintained that the schedule of six debates will allow ample opportunity for Democratic voters to size up the candidates. A party spokeswoman did not respond to a request for additional comment Saturday.

In a statement, Ben Doernberg — the founder of #AllowDebate, a grass roots group pushing for more debates — said on Saturday that "it is increasingly clear that Debbie Wasserman Schultz stands alone against the right of presidential candidates to debate freely."

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