1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Democratic presidential debate field set for Miami

Florida’s only candidate, Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam, does not make the cut.
The first Democratic presidential debates will be held June 26 and 27 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. (Miami Herald)
Published Jun. 13

The Democratic National Committee announced the lineup Thursday for its first presidential primary debates in Miami, leaving Florida’s only candidate out of the mix and irking the governor of Montana.

With 20 people qualifying for the debate, the question was less about which of the 23 “major” candidates would make it than which candidates wouldn’t: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam are officially the odd men out.

In it for sure when the Democrats converge on the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts June 26 and 27 are headliners former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Close behind them in the most recent polls are Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Inside the Democratic strategy to defeat Donald Trump in Florida

The DNC and host network NBC have not yet announced which candidates will debate on which night, but those four will be part of a top-polling group that will be spread evenly across the two debates in order to avoid the perception of one of the nights being an undercard. That top tier also includes California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke and, perhaps, former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro.

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and entrepreneur Andrew Yang are among those who will fill out the debate stage, along with author Marianne Williamson and Congressmen John Delaney and Tim Ryan, from Massachusetts and Ohio, respectively.

Also in the debates: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and California Congressman Eric Swalwell.

The debates, held from 9 to 11 p.m. will be hosted by NBC’s Lester Holt and broadcast on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. Holt will also be joined by NBC’s Savannah Guthrie and Chuck Todd, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart.

The 20 candidates made it into the debates by meeting polling and fundraising benchmarks set by the Democratic National Committee. Candidates could make the debates by either registering in at least three polls conducted by any of 18 sanctioned organizations, or by raising money from at least 65,000 people. Seven of the 20 candidates met only the polling benchmarks.

Bullock, the Montana governor who officially entered the race last month, has been the most critical of the Democratic National Committee’s selection process after a poll that would have made him the 21st candidate to qualify was discounted last week. On Wednesday, he sent a letter to Chairman Tom Perez stating that he’d met the criteria to make the debates and demanding a spot on stage.

“I chose to enter the Democratic primary later than most. Sure, had I jumped into the race earlier, I may have been able to raise my profile. But I had a job to do,” Bullock wrote in an op-ed published Thursday by Fortune. “I chose to enter the Democratic primary later than most. Sure, had I jumped into the race earlier, I may have been able to raise my profile. But I had a job to do.”

But Bullock failed to register in three polls released this week ahead of Wednesday’s qualifying deadline, including a Monmouth poll released the day of the deadline. And the DNC didn’t change its mind regarding the exclusion of an ABC/Washington Post poll from January that was discounted because voters were asked to name their own preferred presidential candidate rather than select from a list of candidates stated by the pollster.


  1. Ross Spano serving in the Florida Legislature in 2017. The Dover Republicans 2018 campaign for Congress is now under federal investigation. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The House Ethics Committee revealed the Dover Republican is under federal investigation for possibly violating campaign finance law.
  2. Student activists with the March For Our Lives group, founded after the Feb. 2018 Parkland shooting, hold a banner that promotes their new "peace plan" to prevent gun violence, while demonstrating in the rotunda of the state capitol building in Tallahassee. Emily L. Mahoney | Times
    The 18-year-old student director of March for Our Lives Florida said school shootings are so common they are “not shocking” anymore.
  3. Gov. Ron DeSantis greets local officials at Dunedin High School on Oct. 7, 2019, part of a swing around the state to announce his plan to boost starting teacher pay in Florida to $47,500. He revealed a related teacher bonus plan on Nov. 14 in Vero Beach. MEGAN REEVES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The new plan would replace the controversial Best and Brightest model that DeSantis had called confusing.
  4. Florida Senator Darryl Rouson on the floor of the Florida Senate. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
    His office said he had been considering filing the bill, but a Times/Herald investigation published Wednesday prompted them to move more quickly.
  5. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., questions FBI Director Christopher Wray during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Also pictured is Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., left. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Scott is co-sponsoring a bill to overturn a 1950s Supreme Court ruling.
  6. Tiffany Carr — shown during a 2004 visit to a Hollywood nail salon, where she spoke on domestic violence — was paid $761,560 annual salary as head of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. MIAMI HERALD  |  [Bob Eighmie Miami Herald file photo]
    Former state Sen. Denise Grimsley, a friend of Carr’s, is stepping in as interim president and CEO of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
  7. In this 2017 photo, then-Gov. Rick Scott, left, speaks with then-Florida Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran in Tampa. The two were instrumental in refusing to expand Medicaid in Florida. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
    According to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Florida likely suffered the second-highest total of deaths in that time period — 2,776 — attributed to not expanding Medicaid,...
  8. Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg delivers a Veterans Day address at a campaign event, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) ELISE AMENDOLA  |  AP
    State rep. Ben Diamond: Mayor Pete is ‘the type of leader that can really bring our country together’
  9. Former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and U.S. Rep. Val Demings have prominent roles in the impeachment of President Donald Trump. [AP Photos]
    Pam Bondi, Matt Gaetz, Val Demings and more will factor prominently in the coming weeks. Here’s how.
  10. Career Foreign Service officer George Kent, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Kent was one of the most high-ranking career officials who had knowledge about elements of the alleged White House effort.