De Blasio, Booker, Gillibrand among 20 qualifying candidates for first Democratic presidential debate

NEW YORK (WABC) -- 20 candidates have qualified for the first Democratic presidential debates later this month in Florida.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts were the only major candidates who failed to meet the polling or grassroots fundraising measures required to get a debate spot.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who recently had been on the bubble, both made the cut based on polling measures, the Democratic National Committee announced Thursday.

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York also qualified for the debates.

The campaign's opening debates, set for June 26-27 in Miami, will offer a prime opportunity for many White House hopefuls to reshape a race defined in recent weeks by former Vice President Joe Biden's domination of national and many early state polls.

An NBC News drawing Friday will divide the large field between the first and second debate night. Party officials have promised to weight the drawing with the intention of ensuring that top tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights.

Those assignments will determine the debate strategies for many campaigns. Candidates will have to decide whether to go after front-runners such as Biden, challenge others in the pack or stand out by remaining above the fray.

Some candidates have criticized the debate-qualifying rules that the party chairman, Tom Perez, set this year. The polling and fundraising thresholds will remain the same for the July debates over two nights in Detroit.

The polling and fundraising marks will double for the third and fourth debates in September and October. Candidates will have to meet both marks instead of one or the other. That means 2 percent in the approved polls and a donor list of at least 130,000 unique contributors.



(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

----------
* Follow us on YouTube
* More local news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Copyright © 2019 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.