Over the next two days, the American public will hear from the 20 qualifying Democractic candidates in the first official debate of the 2020 presidential election. Ranging from past runner-ups to senior Senators to businesspeople and wellness gurus, this election cycle is sure to capture the anxious and uniquely changing state of politics in the land of the free.
Setting the tone for the future of the upcoming hectic 18 months on the campaign trail, this debate will help many voters decide if they feel inspired to fight for a change in power — or if they want to keep the presidency in the hands of Donald Trump.
Based on polling, many voters and constituents seem to have decided who they think are the most likely frontrunners. However, it is still early, and there are 20 hopeful candidates splitting the stage on June 26 and 27 to gain necessary ground.
In order to qualify for the debate, these candidates already received over 65,000 donors to their campaigns –– 200 of which are from at least 20 different states –– or have gained at least 1 percent of the vote in three polls the Democractic National Committee deemed credible.
Here is everything you need to know about the first 10 candidates debating on Wednesday evening across NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo.
- Jessica Lipaz, State News Editor
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey announced his candidacy on Feb. 1. The Washington D.C. native attended Stanford on a football scholarship, was a Rhodes Scholar and graduated from Yale Law School.
He previously served as the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and is known for focusing on education reform during his time as mayor through the expansion of charter school programs.
Supporters of candidate Booker favor him for his oratory skills and optimism. He has announced that he will not be accepting money from Political Action Committees or federal lobbyists during his campaign.
In 2018, he helped write and pass the First Step Act, a bipartisan bill focused on criminal justice reform. His platform focuses on social justice, including equal rights for LGBTQ+ Americans and a plan to combat the racial wealth gap.
Booker also focuses on environmental policy as part of his campaign, and signed on as a co-sponsor to the Green New Deal earlier this year.
He faced criticism for being a friend to the pharmaceutical industry and voting against a 2017 measure that would have reduced drug prices. However, he has since announced his support for competitor Bernie Sanders’ Medicare For All bill, which would in part reduce prescription drug costs.
- Molly Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Despite being unfamiliar among many young voters, the former mayor of San Antonio Julián Castro was one of the first four contenders to announce his campaign for the 2020 Democractic nomination. Since joining the race in January, Castro has campaigned on raising the federal minimum wage, lowering the cost of higher education and achieving universal health care in the United States.
Castro served as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Obama administration from 2014 to 2017. He utilized this position to outline housing reforms in a plan he calls “People First Housing.” The plan would strengthen housing discrimination protections and work to close the homeownership gap.
Over the course of his campaign, Castro hasn’t received much media attention, sitting near the bottom of the polls at around 1 percent. However, his appearance in the debate with other popular candidates could be an opportunity to draw more eyes to his campaign.
- Brighid Hartnett, Staff Writer
John Delaney, the former U.S. Representative who served Maryland’s sixth congressional district from 2013-’19, is also a former businessman and founder of two financial companies. Delaney announced his candidacy on July 28, 2017 — three years before the Democratic convention — in order to gain name recognition and start the necessary groundwork.
Delaney considers himself to be the “most moderate” of the Democratic candidates, focusing on bipartisan cooperation over progressive goals. Seen as a centrist based on his ability to transcend the partisan divide over certain issues, Rep. Delaney’s voting record favored President Donald Trump’s position 34.4 percent of the time.
Despite his moderate tendencies and reputation, Delaney is a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, is pro-choice, plans to install universal health care and believes that climate change should be the forefront topic of the 2020 election cycle. He voiced concerns regarding current campaign and election proceedings, specifically highlighting the need to address gerrymandering and campaign finance reform.
When it comes to economic issues, Delaney proposed a “competitiveness agenda” to make the national economy more competitive in the global market. He is a stark supporter of capitalism over socialism, believing the latter to be a huge mistake and bad for politics.
- Lauren Souza, Arts Editor
Bill de Blasio
Bill de Blasio has served as the mayor of New York City since 2014 and is the first NYC mayor to wage a national presidential campaign since 1972. He is the 23rd Democratic candidate to enter the 2020 race.
Upon announcing his candidacy, he stated, “I’m running for president because it’s time we put working people first.”
His campaign platform is focused on his brand of urban progressive leadership. This includes his signature pre-kindergarten program — his largest accomplishment during his five years as mayor. De Blasio kept his promise to make pre-kindergarten free, full-day and available to all 4-year-olds. In September 2014, full-day pre-kindergarten enrollment grew by approximately 34,000 compared to the previous year, according to the New York Times.
He has also boasted about his accomplishments in maintaining and lowering the city’s crime rate throughout his time as mayor. Additionally, he has highlighted his ability to go toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump — a fellow New Yorker.
- Allison Garfield, City News Editor
Tulsi Gabbard, the current U.S. representative for Hawaii’s second congressional district, announced her presidential run this past January. She took her seat in the House in 2013, becoming the first Samoan-American and the first Hindu member of Congress.
She started her political career in 2002 when she ran successfully for the Hawaii State House of Representatives at 21 years old, the youngest woman ever to be elected to U.S. state Legislature at the time. After the close of her first term, she enlisted in the military to serve in a field medical unit of the Hawaii Army National Guard.
Her unit was deployed on the ground in Iraq from 2004-’05. She now opposes U.S. intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria, emphasizing in her campaign a heavy focus on international security through her intent to end foreign conflicts.
“There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace,” Gabbard stated in an interview with CNN.
Gabbard is vocal about her support for abortion rights, Medicare for All and same-sex marriage, although she lobbied against LGBTQ+ rights prior to 2005, once referring to LGBTQ+ people as “homosexual extremists.”
Gabbard’s campaign has not been without controversy. This past February, NBC News alleged a connection between Gabbard and the Russian government, which she has denied, coining NBC’s portrayal of her as “journalistic fraud.”
- Gracie Wallner, Senior Staff Writer
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee spent the last six years working to bring reforms like the highest minimum wage in the nation and expanded access to reproductive health care to his state. Now, Inslee hopes to bring that vision which started in Washington to a national level with a 2020 bid for the White House.
Climate action has been central to Inslee’s campaign so far. According to his “Climate Mission,” Inslee sees an economy powered with clean energy, investments in green jobs, infrastructure and innovation, a commitment to environmental justice and economic inclusion and an end to fossil fuel giveaways as some of the most important ways America can take steps to lessen climate change impacts.
Inslee used his role as governor to align himself with national climate movements, like the Green New Deal and the U.S. Climate Alliance, which he co-founded. He also emphasised the need to promote climate justice and resilience on a global scale and suggested policy in line with those principles.
Inslee describes his state as the “the epicenter of resistance to Trump’s agenda.” Under his leadership, Washington was the first state to oppose President Trump’s travel ban to predominantly Muslim countries, and he passed sweeping reproductive protections as well.
- Sydney Widell, News Manager
Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic senior Senator from Minnesota, currently polls ninth nationally, according to an average of public opinion polls compiled by Real Clear Politics.
Klobuchar graduated from Yale University magna cum laude with a B.A. in Political Science and received her law degree from the University of Chicago Law School. She wrote two books and won numerous awards including Minnesota’s “Attorney of the Year.”
Klobuchar was a partner at two firms before taking her largest position in a public office as the District Attorney in Hennepin County — Minneapolis’ most populous county — where she oversaw all criminal prosecution.
In 2006, she became Minnesota’s first elected female U.S. senator and was since reelected twice. Klobuchar started to be considered a rising star in the democratic party after being featured at the top of Huffington Post’s “9 Smartest Senators.”
Klobuchar is pro-choice, supports LGBTQ+ rights, Obamacare and was critical of the Iraq War. In 2016, she passed more legislation than any other senator, according to a legislative analysis by GovTrack. During the the 115th Congress, she voted in line with Trump 31.1 percent of the time.
Highlights from her “First 100 Days Plan” include her commitment to putting the nation back in the global Paris Climate Agreement, the immediate suspension on anti-Obamacare efforts, repairing America's diplomatic standing in the world, decreasing prescription drug prices, immigration reform, prioritizing cybersecurity and more restrictive gun control legislation.
- Alberto Kanost, Staff Writer
After a meteoric rise in the 2018 senate race against Sen. Ted Cruz that almost saw Texas turn blue, former congressman Beto O’Rourke is now finding his footing with a national audience.
O’Rourke announced his candidacy less than a month after visiting UW-Madison’s campus in February of this year.
“You are living in the best time to be in this country,” O’Rourke said to a packed UW crowd. “Everything that could possibly matter to the future of human existence is being decided at this moment.”
The message of immediacy mixed with generalities garnered O’Rourke an uneasy transition into his presidential campaign, as he is currently trailing in the polls behind more political savvy opponents, like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.
O’Rourke has been criticized for his slightly eccentric personality, lack of concrete policy proposals and centrism. However, his campaign seeks to reverse this perception in recent weeks by publishing a comprehensive climate change proposal. O’Rourke’s plan includes reingratiating the United States into the Paris Climate Agreement, increased protections on federal lands and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
When asked about where he fell on the political spectrum while on campus, O’Rourke used the opportunity to talk about his policy initiatives.
“I would characterize myself as a capitalist,” O’Rourke said. “Climate change will not be solved by government intervention alone. The engine of capitalism and the engine of genius is fundamental to meeting these challenges.”
- Will Husted, Associate News Editor
Tim Ryan, the U.S. representative for Ohio's 13th congressional district, advocates for blue-collar voters in the Midwest while also focusing on a more sustainable future.
When Ryan was elected to the House of Representatives at 27 years old, he was a member of the National Rifle Association. As a 45-year-old Ohio native, Ryan is seeking a system that “works for all Americans.”
He was previously known for being outwardly against abortion rights. However, he flipped positions in 2015, calling abortion a “personal choice.” He also campaigns for renegotiating trade deals, executing Chinese currency manipulation, union rights and workforce development.
Ryan used his position in Congress to work on improving the quality of life in Northeast Ohio, especially by enhancing local economic competitiveness and tackling high unemployment rates. Before getting elected to Congress, Ryan served in the Ohio state Senate, beginning in 1995.
- Defang Zhang, Campus News Editor
Known for her opposition to corporate corruption in Washington, senior Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren gained ground in the fight for the 2020 Democratic nomination with rising poll numbers in the last two weeks. Warren was the first major candidate to announce her 2020 bid on Feb. 9.
Before her presidential run, Warren gained national attention in her efforts to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the wake of the Great Recession. Most recently, she grilled the former CEO of Wells Fargo Bank after the bank’s fraud scandal was exposed in 2016. A self-described “data nerd,” her campaign website is full of detailed policies she plans to implement if elected.
While she is praised by many on the left for her knowledge of policy and toughness on big banks, she found herself in hot water after claiming her Native American ancestry in 2018. Eventually, Warren apologized to the Cherokee Nation after taking a DNA test. This has led to further backlash as President Donald Trump called her “Pocahontas” throughout the campaign trail.
In the race for 2020, Warren’s campaign stands out as one of the most liberal in the field of Democrats. Both Warren and fellow candidate Bernie Sanders are often compared as the two candidates competing for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. She refuses to take money from superPACs, federal lobbyists and the fossil fuel industry.
- Jack Styler, Staff Writer