WASHINGTON — Although the number of presidential primary debates within the Democratic party remains controversial, some Democrats say they do not want to go down the same path Republicans have gone already.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told reporters Thursday she is making it final that the DNC is not adding any more presidential debates to the six currently scheduled. Additionally, if candidates participate in any unsanctioned debates, they will be penalized.
“We’re not changing the process. We’re having six debates,” said Wasserman Schultz. “The candidates will be uninvited from subsequent debates if they accept an invitation to anything outside of the six sanctioned debates.”
Wasserman Schultz’s announcement came one day after Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, both DNC vice-chairs, wrote a joint Facebook post on Wednesday night recommending the national party to schedule more debates as well as allow candidates to participate in unsanctioned debates.
“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,” the vice-chairs wrote. “We also encourage the DNC to consider additional ways to jointly showcase our candidates across the country.”
Former Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a presidential primary candidate, called the DNC’s debate scheduling process “rigged” and wants more debates on the docket, while fellow presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders also called for more debates.
“Is this how the Democratic Party selects its nominee, or are we becoming something else, something less?” O’Malley asked the DNC in August at their summer meeting. On a radio show after his speech, O’Malley called his party the “Un-Democratic Party.”
“I don’t know what O’Malley has to say that would really qualify him for the whole nation to hear,” New York Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel told The Daily Caller. He asked, “Who the hell is qualified to debate even Hillary Clinton?”
Rangel explained, “If [Sanders] does do well in Iowa, I would be inclined to believe that, yes, let’s hear it from the two. I’m not certain the way the Republicans handle this is right, because they have so many candidates.”
He added, “I don’t know how to cut it off. We don’t have that problem, so I would say, right now, if Bernie Sanders reaches the point that he should be heard by more, then the DNC ought to review their decision.”
Former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, the current Party front-runner, however, would not comment on the issue until recently when asked by CNN about it.
“I debated a lot in 2008 and I would certainly be there with lots of enthusiasm and energy if (the DNC) decide to add more debates,” Clinton said during a press conference in Portsmouth. “And I think that’s the message a lot of people are sending their way.”
Michigan Democratic Rep. Sander Levin told The DC that he believes it is important for his party to “conduct themselves differently than Republicans.”
“If there’s an issue regarding debates it would be better to have it discussed to see if it could be thrashed out. I don’t want us to duplicate the chaos that exists within the Republican Party,” he said. “I don’t think the schedule is rigged against them. It was set up at a time where it made sense. If they don’t think it’s good enough, they’re should be some discussion.”