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What to Know Before Day One of the Democratic Debates

4 min read

If you haven’t kept up with the news or your aunt’s Facebook statuses, here’s a reminder: Tonight, the first half of the Democratic Debates will take place at 9pm EDT.

Ten candidates including Senator Elizabeth Warren and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio will descend upon the stage in Miami. Given the sheer number of candidates, it’s difficult to recall just how they compare. If you need a little help, here’s a quick refresher on the first 10 candidates heading into today’s debate.

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Bill de Blasio

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his presidential run back in May, much to the chagrin of many New Yorkers, who’ve criticized the state of the city’s subway system and rising rents. As mayor, de Blasio has tackled issues of income inequality and criminal justice (scaling back the city’s stop-and-frisk program, for example).

In his short campaign thus far, de Blasio has taken on President Trump, calling for his impeachment, and criticized Joe Biden’s stance on the Hyde Amendment which banned federal funding for abortions.

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Cory Booker

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New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is a vehement supporter of criminal justice and housing reform, as well as gun control. Back in September, Booker also made headlines for challenging Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing, seeking to prove Kavanaugh supported racial profiling.

Booker has faced criticism for his ties to Wall Street; in 2014 and as New Jersey congress member, Booker received more donations from donors associated with Wall Street than any other member of Congress at the time, as Vox writes.

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Julián Castro

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You may be familiar with former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, as he previously served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Obama.

During his presidential campaign thus far, Castro has homed in on immigration, as well as criminal justice reform. “The next President must start by reversing the cruel policies of the Trump administration—including the Muslim ban, wasteful spending on a pointless wall, and cuts to the refugee program—and ending the vile rhetoric that has scapegoated and vilified immigrants,” Castro wrote in a post on Medium. In May, he also proposed a universal pre-kindergarten program and eliminating tuition at universities and colleges.

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John Delaney

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Former Maryland Congressmember John Delaney is probably best known for his universal health care proposal—and recent criticism of Medicare for all that earned him several boos at the California Democratic Convention. (Despite his proposal, Delaney still advocates for private insurance in health care.)

Delaney also previously founded a company that financed health care providers.

Tulsi Gabbard

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Hawaii Congressmember Tulsi Gabbard supports Medicare for all and eliminating tuition for four-year universities and colleges, as well as for community colleges. She was also a vocal supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Though she’s publicly changed her views (and apologized for some), Gabbard has had a particularly controversial record; she had previously touted working with an anti-LGBTQ organization that backed conversion therapy, has opposed abortion, and held notably conservative positions on foreign policy during Obama’s administration.

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Jay Inslee

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Washington Governor Jay Inslee has devoted much (if not all) of his campaign to climate change, with a plan to invest in clean technology, job creation through investments in better technology, and ultimately “hold polluters accountable,” through ending federal subsidies to these polluters.

He’s even advocated for a debate devoted to climate change (which the DNC later rejected).

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Amy Klobuchar

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Earning a reputation as a moderate Democrat, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is likely best known for grilling Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanagh during his confirmation hearing back in October (and a less-than-kind profile in the New York Times involving a comb and a salad).

As Vox writes, she’s remained mostly silent on big-ticket items, like Bernie Sander’s Medicare for all program, but advocates for universal health care and the Green New Deal.

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Beto O’Rourke

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Former Texas Congressmember Beto O’Rourke is likely best known for his hard-fought senate campaign against incumbent Ted Cruz—and a viral moment back in August 2018 when he defended NFL players’ right to kneel during national anthems.

Among other things, he is a supporter of immigration and naturalization reform and has called for a climate change plan estimated to cost nearly $5 trillion. He’s also known for his centrist voter record; the debates could shake up his low-polling numbers and bring him back into the spotlight.

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Tim Ryan

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Hailing from a working-class district, Ohio Congressmember Tim Ryan has made saving jobs a central role in his campaign. “I know that the president wants a campaign on the economy,” Ryan told USA Today this week. “But I’m going to campaign on the economy because it’s not working for the vast majority of the people in the country. Seventy-five percent of the people are still living paycheck to paycheck.”

Ryan is also best known for challenging Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House back in 2016 and very recently changing his views on abortion.

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Elizabeth Warren

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Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is best known for her stance against money and corruption in politics, seeking to tighten regulations around lobbying and place a tax on corporations and on the “ultra-rich,” with some funds going toward reducing student loan debt.

Warren remains the only top-five polling candidate shut out of Thursday’s debate, which will make her a clear focus tonight.

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