State News

Debate Night Two: Meet the 2020 Democratic candidates

Learn about the candidates before America gets a glimpse of the potential Democratic nominee in the first official debate of the 2020 campaign Thursday evening.

Image By: Max Homstad

Last night and this evening 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 second set of 10 candidates debating on Thursday evening across NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo.

- Jessica Lipaz, State News Editor


Michael Bennet

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet announced his candidacy for president of the United States in May with more than a decade of experience in business and politics under his belt.

Bennet was born in New Delhi, India, but grew up in Washington D.C. As a law student, Bennet was the editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. After graduating, he served as counsel to the deputy attorney general and assistant secretary of state for International Organization Affairs for the Clinton Administration. He then moved to Colorado with his wife, where he continued work in public affairs. 

Before becoming a U.S. senator in 2010, he served as chief of staff to fellow candidate Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and worked as superintendent of Denver Public Schools.

Bennet was the co-author of the Advancing Care for Exceptional Kids Act — which was signed into law in April 2019 — aiming to improve how Medicaid provides services to children with complex medical needs.

Bennet advocates for stricter gun control laws, demanding universal background checks on gun sales. He also supports same-sex marriage and the decriminalization of marijuana. 

On immigration reform, Bennet told The New York Times he does not “think illegal immigration is a major problem in the United States,” but “our broken immigration system is a major problem.”

- Jenna Walters, Senior Staff Writer


Joe Biden

The former vice president and senator from Delaware is entering his third presidential campaign with an affinity toward bipartisanship and a claim of connecting well with the common voter. 

Biden’s platform is centered around reinvigorating the United States leadership on the world stage. His key objective: fostering an inclusive and interconnected global trade network that benefits workers while upholding environmental and social standards. 

Domestically, Biden’s campaign looks to enact economic protections for low-income workers, reform the criminal justice system and expand the Affordable Care Act. 

Biden is also advocating for increased spending on education, a humane immigration policy that simultaneously strengthens the U.S.-Mexico border and the introduction of robust labor laws and a tax code that will rebuild the middle class and promote equality. 

Early polling projects Biden to be one of the frontrunners to win the Democratic nomination. Past precedent, however, does not suggest Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential run will be a cakewalk. 

With two failed presidential bids in 1988 and 2008, coupled with a series of recent public flare-ups, the Biden campaign has, at times, been put on the defensive.

Seven women have come forward, accusing Biden of inappropriately touching them. He flipped his long-standing position on the Hyde Amendment, and most recently, Biden received backlash from fellow candidates regarding his comments about working with segregationist senators in the 1970s. 

- Michael Parsky, Staff Writer


Pete Buttegieg 

Pete Buttigieg has been the mayor of South Bend, Indiana since 2012. Commonly referred to as “Mayor Pete,” Buttigieg is the youngest Democratic candidate in the field and the first openly gay candidate for a major political party in the United States. Buttigieg is a Harvard graduate and military veteran, deploying for six months in Afghanistan in 2014.

Buttigieg is one of many Democratic candidates who supports universal health care, calling the current system “unjust and inefficient”. Additionally, Buttigieg intends to bring reform to higher education costs, nationwide infrastructure, reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights and organized labor.

Recently, Mayor Pete has strayed away from the campaign trail after the fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer created tension and anger throughout South Bend. Many residents expressed their criticisms to Buttigieg at a town hall Sunday, including calls for transparency and accountability within the city’s police department. An investigation into the incident by a county special prosecutor has been requested.

- Michael Bogaards, Senior Staff Writer


Kirsten Gillibrand

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has served the state of New York in Congress since 2009 and now is campaigning to address social, economic, environmental and medical inequalities she believes jeopardize our nation. 

Since taking office, Sen. Gillibrand has fought for justice and equality through her support in various initiatives, such as ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, ensuring HIV and AIDS patients’ access to health care and support, as well as initiating permanent health care and compensation for 9/11 first responders. 

She is on the left side of many contentious issues — standing for Planned Parenthood, more comprehensive immigration programs, Medicaid for All and the Green New Deal, along with other science-based environmental initiatives to mitigate climate change. 

By restoring Voting Rights Act through implementing automatic voter registration, expanding access to online registration and making election day a federal holiday, Gillibrand plans to end partisan gerrymandering. She proposed establishing postal banking to allow individuals without a checking account to take out small loans at their local postal office to create more of an even economic playing field for all U.S. citizens.  

She believes that the federal government must invest resources for communities that have been harmed by the “racist war on drugs,” and that this initiative would counteract flaws in the criminal justice system. If elected, Sen. Gillibrand hopes to legalize marijuana and incite prison reform by ending cash bail and lowering sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. This would tighten the disparities that low-income individuals and people of color face in arrests, sentencing and incarceration.

- Elizabeth Parker, Staff Writer


Kamala Harris 

Since 2011, Kamala Harris made her mark in politics as the first woman to serve as attorney general in California and the second woman in history to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Throughout Harris’ career, she fought for tax breaks for the middle and lower classes, as well as safety, education and health care for all. 

Harris supports the Paris Climate Agreement and disagrees with President Donald Trump’s proposal to reverse the Obama administrations’ fuel efficiency standards. Regarding education, Harris wants to provide free tuition at four-year public universities for most students. She intends to fund this through a fee placed on the Wall Street stock trade. 

Harris agrees with fellow candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill. This legislation requires a 6.2 percent tax on employers and a 2.2 percent fee on families. Beyond access for all, Harris intends to increase availability of mental health care services and voted against bills that limit abortions within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

Although Harris admits she has shot a gun many times in her life, she takes a strong stand on gun control reformations. She sponsors a bill to ban assault weapons and the sale of high-capacity magazines. She also supported laws that prohibit gun dealers from advertising handguns. 

Butting heads with the Trump administration again, Harris feels strongly about policy surrounding immigration and border security. If elected, she wants to see Congress start from scratch with immigration legislation so America can work to keep families safe and together.  

- Elizabeth McShane, Staff Writer


John Hickenlooper

John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado from 2011-’19 and mayor of Denver from 2003-’11, calls himself an “extreme moderate” with more centrist views than most Democrats running for the nomination. 

During Hickenlooper’s time as governor, Colorado passed gun control legislation — universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines — that he wants to enact at the federal level. He called gun violence “the real national emergency plaguing our nation” in a tweet following the February 2019 shooting in Aurora, Illinois.

Hickenlooper also expanded Medicaid while he served as governor, and criticized the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In the past, Hickenlooper said he’s in favor of universal health care. However — unlike other candidates — he hasn’t expressed support for any specific approach, such as Medicare for All. 

The candidate’s climate change platform calls for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and create new plans for a clean energy-based future. He supports the ideas behind the Green New Deal, although he said it “sets unachievable goals.” Despite these initiatives, Hickenlooper has a history of supporting fracking and opposing ballot initiatives restricting where oil wells could be built. 

He also supports abortion access, LGBTQ+ rights and global trade. 

- Dana Brandt, College News Editor


Bernie Sanders

Well-known for being the runner-up to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary, Bernie Sanders officially announced his campaign for the 2020 presidential election this past February. Sanders served as mayor of Burlington, Vermont from 1981 to 1989 and was a senator in the state from 1991 to 2007. 

Sanders gained traction with younger, more progressive voters due to his liberal and reformist policy proposals. Just days ago, Sanders announced his plans to cancel the outstanding $1.6 trillion of student debts belonging to 45 million borrowers if elected president.  

The presidential candidate made recent attempts at explaining his self-proclaimed label of democratic socialism, which stems from his emphasis on economic freedom and equality. He proves this through a number of his most popular policy proposals, including raising taxes on the top 10 percent, corporations and Wall Street, as well as removing “big” money from politics and raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. 

Despite his age, the 77-year-old is popular for his progressive social stances, highlighted by a historic track record of advocating for people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community, the disabled community and more. Sanders is a supporter of Universal Healthcare for All, the Green New Deal and more restrictive gun control policies. 

- Kylie Ver Kuilen, Staff Writer


Eric Swalwell

Eric Swalwell represents the 15th district of California and officially entered the race this April. Swalwell’s political career started as an undergraduate through an internship with a former congresswoman after injuries ended his soccer scholarship at Campbell University in North Carolina.

The 38-year-old representative was first elected to the House in 2013, where he served on the Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees. Swalwell also founded the Future Form in April 2015, where he is the “point man” for House Democrats to reach a bipartisan group of young and millennial lawmakers. 

Swalwell’s largest priority this campaign is countering gun violence. After the deadly Parkland Shooting in February 2018, Swalwell worked with student organizers from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School and their March for Our Lives campaign. On his website, Swalwell says he wants to ban semiautomatic weapons for civilians and institute a buy-back program.

Swalwell qualified for the debates in the busy democratic field, which required at least 1 percent in polling. However, he stated he would consider dropping out of the race if he is unable to get above higher cutoffs for debates, which will start in September. 

- Bremen Keasey, Senior Staff Writer


Marianne Williamson

Texas native Marianne Williamson is calling for a “moral and spiritual awakening” in American politics. 

Williamson is a bestselling self-help author, wellness guru and personal counselor for Oprah Winfrey. Unlike her opponents, she speaks with particular interest in politics through wellness and spirituality. 

“My campaign is about an integrative approach to politics that factors in psychological and emotional issues,” Williamson said.

Williamson calls for progressive reform to public education, health care, criminal justice, gun legislation and environmental policy. Williamson was one of the first Democratic candidates to include financial reparations for slavery in her platform. 

Among the more unique items on her agenda is establishing a “Department of Peace,” which would fund conflict resolution, trauma education and violence prevention programs across the nation. 

Last week, Williamson met backlash for her expressed skepticism about vaccines. She has since walked back on her claims — that they are “Orwellian” and “draconian,” — but maintains her commitment to increasing oversight of “Big Pharma.” 

Previously, she founded several charities serving victims of HIV/AIDS. She is the only Jewish female candidate running for president.

- Benny Koziol, Staff Writer


Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang, the former attorney-turned-entrepreneur, made his main goal clear: fighting to raise awareness on economic security for middle-class workers. Yang fears that at the speed that technological automation is growing, all working class jobs with a sense of regularity  –– retail, fast-food, service, etc. –– will be replaced. 

His solution? Create a universal income program for every single American, regardless of social class. Yang claims this ambitious plan will cost over $1 trillion in taxpayer dollars, yet will create millions of jobs due to the purchasing power it grants consumers. 

Many have claimed Yang’s message and priorities are similar to President Donald Trump’s in his 2016 presidential campaign. Like Trump, Yang has no political experience before seeking the presidency and has made middle-class job loss his top priority.

The son of two Taiwanese immigrants, Andrew Yang is the first Asian-American to run for president in American history. He is the founder of Venture for America, a non-profit focusing on training low-income people into entrepreneurs. 

- Dominic LeRose, Staff Writer

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