Cory Booker is calling out the Democratic National Committee over a primary process that he believes is excluding candidates of color from this month’s debate, yet letting a billionaire like Tom Steyer qualify. Booker made his comments along with another Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro.
According to Politico, the comments arrived on Thursday, not too long after Sen. Kamala Harris dropped out of the 2020 race on Tuesday because of lack of funding. Despite all this, Harris was the leading candidate of color and the only one to qualify for the Dec. 19 debate in Los Angeles.
Now, the current candidates taking the stage that day are all white, including Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, are on the cusp of making the stage.
During a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday, Booker started his address by giving Harris accolades as a barrier-breaking politician whose presidential run he said inspired Black youth. In conjunction with this, Booker slammed the system that he said cut Harris out of the race before a single vote was cast.
“What message is that sending, that we heralded the most diverse field in our history, and now we’re seeing people like her dropping out of this campaign, not because Iowa voters had the voice?” Booker said. “Voters did not determine her destiny.”
“I cannot tell you how much I believe in our primaries. And I’ve seen folk here in Iowa belie what all the predictions are and show us what real viability is,” Booker continued, implicitly criticizing DNC rules that count polling and grassroots fundraising into who can qualify for the debates. “It was this state that set a trajectory for the first black man in American history to become president — and, frankly, somebody that was way behind Hillary Clinton right now in the polls [at] that time.”
Castro reflected Booker’s sentiments in a fundraising email Wednesday where he criticized the DNC’s debate rules for being a detriment to candidates of color and disenfranchising minority voters.
“[W]ith the news of Senator Harris dropping out of the race, there are currently no candidates of color who have met the DNC’s requirements to qualify for the next debate,” Castro wrote. “This process needs to be fixed.”
The DNC defended its process in a statement to Politico.
“This has been the most inclusive debate process with more women and candidates of color participating in more debates than billionaires,” DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa explained. “While we are legally required to have objective criteria for each debate, our qualifying criteria has stayed extremely low throughout this entire process.”
Up to twenty candidates were allowed to participate in the first two set of debates and at least 10 candidates have been allowed to be on every stage thus far. December’s qualification rules include having 200,000 unique donors and at least 4 percent support in four approved polls.
“Nobody who has failed to reach 4 percent at this point in the race has gone on to be the nominee, and our debate criteria reflects that,” Hinojosa continued. “In addition, we have made diversity a priority by requiring that every debate have women and people of color as moderators. We’ve never seen a political party take this many steps to be inclusive.”
Since Harris announced her departure from the race, Booker and Castro say an outpouring of financial support came in. On Wednesday, Booker had the best online fundraising day of his campaign and Castro had his best fundraising day of this quarter on Tuesday. Despite the new momentum, this will unlikely earn them a spot at the upcoming debate, considering both candidates have a slim chance of reaching the 4 percent threshold in four approved polls before next Thursday’s deadline.