DNC To Sanction Six Presidential Primary Debates

Washington, DC – The Democratic National Committee announced today that it will sanction six debates between candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, beginning in the fall of 2015.  


“We’ve always believed that we would have a competitive primary process, and that debates would be an important part of that process,” said DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  “Our debate schedule will not only give Democratic voters multiple opportunities to size up the candidates for the nomination side-by-side, but will give all Americans a chance to see a unified Democratic vision of economic opportunity and progress – no matter whom our nominee may be.”


Each of the six DNC-sanctioned debates will be sponsored by a combination of state Democratic Parties, national broadcast media, digital platforms, local media, and civic organizations.  The four early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina will each host a sanctioned debate.


Wasserman Schultz said that there are several key principles guiding the process of putting together a debate schedule:


  • Setting a reasonable number of impactful debates that give voters ample opportunity to see the candidates side-by-side, while remaining manageable for all of the candidates.
  • Beginning the debate window in the fall of 2015, when voters are truly beginning to pay attention.
  • Making the debates as appealing and accessible as possible to voters through a variety of means, including:
    • Diversity of media outlets, moderators and formats
    • Inclusion of key civic groups
    • Strong and creative digital presence that will take the debates directly to voters


While a six sanctioned debate schedule is consistent with the precedent set by the DNC during the 2004 and 2008 cycles, this year the DNC will further manage the process by implementing an exclusivity requirement.  Any candidate or debate sponsor wishing to participate in DNC debates, must agree to participate exclusively in the DNC-sanctioned process.  Any violation would result in forfeiture of the ability to participate in the remainder of the debate process.


Wasserman Schultz said that the DNC has already received a number of proposals and inquiries from potential debate sponsors.  Senior DNC officials will now begin working directly with those groups to facilitate partnerships and discuss next steps.  Additional details regarding debate partners, cities, dates, logistics, additional host states, and criteria for participation will be released at a later date.