Warren says 2020 Democratic candidates lack diversity

  • Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a rally at West Delaware High School on Saturday in Manchester, Iowa. AP

  • A man who shouted at Elizabeth Warren, “You’re siding with Iran,” was removed from a campaign event Friday. Paul Steinhauser—For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 1/10/2020 5:41:36 PM

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren warns that her party has “a problem” when it comes to a lack of diverse candidates making the presidential primary debate stage.

The progressive firebrand from Massachusetts is one of six candidates in the field of Democratic White House hopefuls to qualify for next Tuesday’s debate in Iowa. Also reaching the Democratic National Committees rising thresholds to make the stage are former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and billionaire environmental and progressive advocate Tom Steyer.

All of the candidates are Caucasian and for the first time, no non-white candidate will qualify for the debate. Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang – who’s Asian-American – and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey – who’s black – were on the bubble, but as of Friday were unlikely to reach the DNC’s thresholds.

Ahead of a town hall in Dover Friday, Warren said that the lack of diversity on the debate stage as the Democratic Party’s slate of candidates becomes increasingly non-white is a “problem.”

“We started out with such an importantly diverse field, a field that had lots of different voices, lots of different perspectives. For me the particularly hard day was the day that (Sen.) Kamala Harris ... was dropping out of the race because of money and that same day a billionaire bought his way onto the debate stage. Now that’s just not right.”

Warren’s billionaire jab was directed at Steyer, who’s qualified for the past three debates.

“That’s not how our democracy should work and it is certainly not how our primary should work,” Warren emphasized. “Part of the strength of the Democratic Party is that we hear from lots of people. Lots of different perspectives, and that’s how we build a strong party going forward.”

National Democratic Party leaders have been criticized since the first debate last June to make the qualifying criteria more inclusive in order to allow lower-tier contenders and diverse candidates onto the stage.

One of the candidates who failed to qualify for the most recent debates was Julian Castro, the only Latino contender. The former San Antonio, Texas, mayor who later served as housing secretary in President Barack Obama’s cabinet dropped out of the race last week.

In recent months, Castro’s taken aim at both Iowa and New Hampshire – both overwhelmingly Caucasian states – for traditionally holding the first two contests in the presidential primary and caucus nominating calendar.

In his video last week announcing he was ending his bid, he emphasized that “it’s time for the Democratic Party to change the way that we do our presidential nominating process.”

Castro endorsed Warren on Monday and is now traveling the country as one of her top surrogates.

Asked on Friday by reporters after the town hall if she thinks New Hampshire should keep it’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary status, Warren didn’t directly answer.

“I think that Julian raises an important issue,” Warren quickly said.

But she added that “I am very glad that the process we use right now is to go to four states in four weeks right at the beginning. It gives us very different states with very different sets of issues to go on. There is no process that’s perfect and people are going to continue to talk about it. But I’m delighted to be here in New Hampshire right now in the middle of this fight.”

There’s speculation that Warren could possibly name Castro as her running mate if she wins the Democratic presidential nomination.

Asked in the interview if that’s something she’s considering, the candidate quickly answered “it would be presumptuous to talk about” running mates.

But she added that “I’ve known Julian for years. We worked together on housing issues a long, long, time ago.” And she emphasized that “Julian is a good man. He truly is. And for him, public service is about how much good you can do. And he’s all in on that. ... He said he wanted to stay in this fight and stay in this fight with me because we’re fighting the same issues in the same way.”

Warren’s town hall was briefly interrupted the start by an angry protestor who accused her of “siding with terrorists” amid the conflict between the United States and Iran over the U.S. killing last week of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani.

As soon as Warren took to the microphone at the town hall-style event, the man charged to the front of the room and began yelling “you’re siding with Iran” and asking loudly “why are you siding with terrorists?”

He also told her: “Hope you resign.”

Warren responded as the crowd booed at the protester, saying “this is a man who’s deeply upset. It’s all right. It’s time for you to leave.”

The protestor was quickly escorted out of the town hall.

Later, Warren told reporters “I think getting into a shouting match with a man who’s so clearly disturbed is not helpful to him, and not helpful to anyone.”

On a lighter note, Warren was asked by a high school student in the crowd if she’d accompany him to an upcoming junior prom.

Laughing, Warren answered “I think you’re awesome. Let’s talk.”


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