The Key Moments From The First Presidential Primary Debate


The race is officially on. After months of seeing Democrat after Democrat launch their 2020 presidential bids, on June 26 and 27, 20 out of the 25 candidates finally have their first chance at making their pitch to voters nationwide. With the most diverse lineup in history — with more than one woman on the debate stage for the first time ever — it is sure to be a historic couple of nights. The task candidates are facing is not an easy one. They must answer, Why should voters pick you as the Democratic presidential nominee?

Without opening statements, and with only 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds to respond to follow-ups, candidates are facing their greatest challenge yet.

Whether you're tuning in or not, read on to find out the most important moments of the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential election. We'll continue to update this story as the night goes on.

Is Sen. Elizabeth Warren the first presidential candidate to use the term "Latinx"?

During her first turn, Warren said the economy needs to work "for African-Americans and Latinxs." The term Latinx — an inclusive alternative to Latino and Latina — is not without controversy. But Warren's choice to use this term, a definite first in the presidential debate stage, signals that she's well-aware young Latinx voters are a growing voting bloc.

Beto O'Rourke and Sen. Cory Booker showcased their Spanish skills.

O'Rourke delivered part of his introductory turn in Spanish, a clear pitch to the bilingual Latinxs who are tuning in. However, he didn't answer the question he was asked about whether he supports a 70% marginal tax rate — in either language.

When tasked with answering a question about immigration, Booker addressed the Spanish-speaking community directly.

Julián Castro came out swinging for the Equal Rights Amendment.

Castro made a strong case for the Equal Rights Amendment, which would amend the U.S. Constitution to include language that guarantees equal rights for all citizens, regardless of their gender. His choice to highlight women's rights so early in the debate made him stand out from the rest of the group.

Amy Klobuchar's retort to Jay Inslee on reproductive rights.

After Gov. Jay Inslee pointed out that he was the only lawmaker on stage who has signed a law protecting a woman’s rights to choose an abortion, Sen. Amy Klobuchar chimed in: "There’s three women up here who have fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose." The Minnesota Democrat then added that all Democrats on stage agree that women should have full control of their reproductive healthcare.

Castro then promised in that he would appoint federal judges who understand Roe v. Wade, while adding that access to abortion concerns not only women, but transgender men and non-binary folks as well. Warren added that she has a plan to codify access to abortion in the federal statute.

Trump weighs in.


— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2019

Candidates bring up Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez's death and conditions in detention camps in immigration debate.

The moderators had a hard time getting a direct answer from the candidates on what they would do with the families currently in detention in the first 100 days of their presidency, but it didn’t stop them from getting heated about the current administration’s immigration policies. Julián Castro, the only Latinx candidate, started with a teary tribute to Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria, Salvadoran asylum seekers who drowned in the Rio Grande river during their journey to the U.S. He called for policy changes, including the end to “metering” — or the White House’s current practice of limiting the amount of asylum claims per day at the U.S.-Mexico border. He also got into barbs with fellow Texan O’Rourke over decriminalizing border crossings.

Inslee finally answered the question when he said he would release the families currently in detention, as they await their hearings.

.@JulianCastro to reporters in spin room: "I find it very ironic that a senator from Massachusetts and a senator from New Jersey are the ones who understand this border policy and this law better than Congressman O'Rourke."

— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) June 27, 2019

The Parkland activists think the candidates need to be talking about more than mass shootings.

As the debate turned to the issue of gun violence, Sen. Booker was asked about his proposal of a federal buyback program, part of his gun reform plan, and Booker brought up the gun violence that is prevalent in his own New Jersey neighborhood. He said he hears gunshots while in his home, and that seven people were shot just last week.

Meanwhile, Sen. Warren cited the statistic that seven children die a day due to gun violence, calling it a “national emergency.” She also wants to “double down on research” to figure out how to address it.

Candidates need to be talking about much more than just mass shootings.

They need to be talking about all forms of gun violence including:

-firearm suicide
-every day shootings
-domestic violence
-Mass shootings
-Police murder of unarmed children

— David Hogg (@davidhogg111) June 27, 2019

Jay Inslee gets his climate change moment.

The Washington governor finally got his moment to speak on his top issue: climate change. “Our towns are burning … Miami is inundated,” Gov. Inslee said in a desperate plea for environmental protections, calling climate change a both a “crisis” and an “emergency.” He cited the 100% clean energy plan from his home state. “Who’s going to make this the first priority?” Inslee asked. “I’m the only one saying this needs to be our top priority in the United States.”

Cory Booker brought attention to violence against Black transgender Americans.

Booker emphasized that it's imperative to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, specifically highlight that Black transgender folks in the United States face disproportionate levels of violence. This year alone, seven transgender Black women have been murdered.

"We do not talk enough about trans Americans, especially African American trans Americans, and the incredibly high rates of murder right now," Booker said. "It's not enough just to be on the Equality Act — I'm an original co-sponsor — we need to have a president that will fight to protect LGBTQ Americans every day."

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