Elections

Do you want to see the Democrats debate live at the Arsht Center? Good luck to you.

The battle for 2020: Possible Democratic presidential candidates

Following the results of the 2018 midterm elections, we take a look at the Democrats who could run for president in the 2020 election.
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Following the results of the 2018 midterm elections, we take a look at the Democrats who could run for president in the 2020 election.

Let’s say you’re a regular, shmegular South Floridian interested in informing your vote by witnessing the first Democratic presidential debate for the 2020 elections. Or perhaps you’d just like to come watch the 20 chosen candidates try to get a word in during the two-day performance of political know-how.

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, where the debates are being held, holds 2,200 and the seats are hot. Interested folks from California to Cutler Bay have been inundating the Democratic National Committee and host network NBC with requests for tickets, but to little avail.

Dying for a seat in the room on June 26 and 27? Here are some potential ideas.

First, you can be an elected official. A source with firsthand knowledge of the debate said all of the state, congressional and high-ranking local Democrats will be able to attend one of the two nights. (Except for a few exceptions, no one will be attending both nights of the debate.)

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The invitation is valid only for one date and is non-transferable. The invitee can’t bring a guest, either, according to the invite.

Second, you can be a big-shot donor. Individual invites identical to those sent to elected officials were sent to some donors, but the DNC could not confirm how many.

Third, you can be a state influencer. Neil Volz, political director for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which advocated and helped draft Amendment 4, said he will be attending alongside a few of his colleagues.

“A presidential debate is a great place to advocate for issues important to Florida’s returning citizen community,” Volz said. “Whether it’s talking to Republicans, Democrats or Independents, we think it is crucial that the voices of people with past felony convictions are heard.”

CLEO Institute founder Caroline Lewis said she and others from the Miami-based climate action non-profit were invited, despite not being major donors to the party.



“I need to be there physically,” she said. “It’s a strong bench, I think. I have a soft spot for Elizabeth Warren.”

Susan Glickman, a longtime lobbyist and current Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, will also be attending. She said she was surprised to see the invite pop up in her email inbox, as she is not a donor to the DNC.

“I had just begun to give thought to who I might reach out to to get a ticket, and then it appeared,” she said. “I remember thinking I wanted to get inside. Clearly, I’m on somebody’s list.”

Dwight Bullard, political director of the New Florida Majority, said members of the voter’s advocacy group were not invited, and that he was disappointed with the lack of public access to the debate tickets.

“It is unfortunate that community organizations, like New Florida Majority, were not included in the debate process or allowed input on how to engage the very communities Democrats claim to need in 2020,” he said in a statement.



Thomas Kennedy, political director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said his group was not invited, either.



“Miami is a city made up of immigrants and as the largest state-based immigrant rights organization, we are disappointed that our members have not been given an opportunity to participate in a debate that will shape the way these candidates build policies that will affect their day to day lives,” he said. “We hope that the DNC moving forward will make a more conscious effort to reach out to grassroots organizations like ours and include directly impacted community members in these type of events.”

Not a mover and shaker? You can cross your fingers and hope for the best. The Democratic Party’s website has a form you can fill out to request tickets, though its disclaimer warns that “due to limited seating and extreme interest, most requests will not be possible to accommodate.” A Democratic staffer who recently spoke with Florida Democratic Party chair Terrie Rizzo said the tickets will be distributed through some sort of lottery, but details were hazy.

If all else fails, you can watch the debates on television like the rest of us.

The debate will air live across NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo from 9 to 11 p.m. both nights. The debate will also stream online free on NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com and the NBC News mobile app as well as Telemundo’s digital platforms.

Samantha J. Gross is a politics and policy reporter for the Miami Herald. Before she moved to the Sunshine State, she covered breaking news at the Boston Globe and the Dallas Morning News.

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