Who are the Democratic debate candidates?


As of this week, there are about two dozen Democratic presidential candidates running — that is, if we’re counting just the prominent ones.

Here are the 20 Democratic candidates who will be participating in the first pair of debates for the 2020 presidential nomination, held over two nights, Wednesday and Thursday, in Miami.

Michael Bennet, a moderate, says he’s running to counter the “toxicity” of partisan politics.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Michael Bennet, Colorado senator

The decade Michael Bennet has spent in the Senate has given him a reputation as a straight-talker. The moderate has said he was compelled to run because of the “toxicity” of partisan politics. The descendant of Holocaust survivors, he grew up in Washington, where his father was an aide to Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

Joe Biden is leading in polls but has faced criticism, most recently for saying he worked well with segregationists in the past.
(Matthew Putney / Associated Press)

Joe Biden, former vice president

From the moment he announced, and perhaps even before it became official, Joe Biden was considered a front-runner in a crowded field. He has decades of political experience — 36 years in the Senate and eight as Barack Obama’s vice president — and he has easily led in the polls, but not without faltering. Women have complained about his tendency to touch and hug people, prompting him to issue a statement acknowledging but not apologizing for his behavior. Last week, his nostalgic remarks about working with segregationist senators drew reproach, including from rival candidate Sen. Cory Booker.

Bill de Blasio is an underdog but has captured attention as an outspoken critic of President Trump.
(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Bill de Blasio, New York City mayor

Bill de Blasio has been the underdog in the most important races he’s won, including the New York mayoral election. Maybe that’s why he’s still running for president, even when polls indicate he is hardly anyone’s first choice. De Blasio has been a prominent voice among Democrats pushing back against the Trump White House, publicly criticizing the president and his policies.

Cory Booker has proposed sweeping gun control measures and clemency reviews for nonviolent federal prisoners.
(Dustin Chambers / Getty Images)

Cory Booker, New Jersey senator

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey has proposed a national license for gun owners as part of a sweeping gun control agenda. He recently announced a plan for clemency reviews of federal prisoners, which could shorten federal prison sentences for as many as 20,000 nonviolent offenders. The Rhodes scholar, who is a vegan, began his political career when he was elected mayor of Newark in 2006.

Julián Castro, the only Latino in the Democratic race, is calling for more federal spending to fight homelessness.
(Kimberly White / Getty Images for MoveOn)

Julián Castro, former HUD secretary

Julián Castro has described himself as the “antithesis of Donald Trump.” Castro, who served as Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Obama, has called for a sharp increase in federal spending to address homelessness, saying he views housing “as a human right.” The former San Antonio mayor is the only Latino vying for the Democratic nomination. His grandmother immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, and his identical twin is Joaquin Castro, a Democratic congressman from Texas.

Pete Buttigieg had a strong start but has recently faced accusations of racial insensitivity over an African American man’s death at the hands of police.
(Sait Serkan Gurbuz / Associated Press)

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind.

Pete Buttigieg faced unexpected early success when he launched his bid. The son of two Notre Dame professors, Buttigieg (pronounced BUDDHA-judge) is a Rhodes scholar and Afghanistan war veteran. As two-term mayor of his Indiana town, he has fended off accusations of racial insensitivity. On Sunday, his constituents lashed out at him over a white police officer’s killing of a black man, highlighting resentment among the city’s African American residents.

John Delaney has been campaigning for over a year, frequenting the crucial early states of Iowa and New Hampshire with his moderate message.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Presss)

John Delaney, former Maryland congressman

Instead of running for reelection, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland announced in 2017 that he would run for president. With his early campaign kickoff, the political moderate has made more than a dozen trips to New Hampshire and at least 24 to Iowa — yet has hardly registered in polls in either state.

Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to Congress, served in the National Guard in the Mideast but is a critic of U.S. foreign policy.
(Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

Tulsi Gabbard, congresswoman from Hawaii

At 21, Tulsi Gabbard became the youngest person elected to the Hawaii Legislature. Gabbard, who served in the National Guard in the Middle East, made history again when she became the first Hindu elected to Congress in 2012. The frequent critic of U.S. foreign policy was criticized for a 2016 Syria trip during which she met with President Bashar Assad, who has been accused of war crimes.

Kirsten Gillibrand supports universal healthcare and paid family leave for all as well as the Green New Deal to fight climate change.
(Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

Kirsten Gillibrand, New York senator

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has emphasized her potential appeal to independents and her work championing the reversal of President Trump’s agenda. She has called for universal healthcare, paid family leave for all and passage of a Green New Deal that proposes to end the country’s reliance on fossil fuel. Gillibrand made headlines in 2017 after taking on Trump in a Twitter war. Her image as an ardent advocate of the #MeToo movement was shaken after Politico reported allegations of sexual harassment in her Senate office.

Kamala Harris’ background as a prosecutor may play well against President Trump, but could hurt her amid rollbacks of tough sentencing laws that especially affected African Americans.
(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Kamala Harris, California senator

Kamala Harris, a former San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general, is campaigning on her record as a prosecutor. The charismatic first-term senator has gained a reputation for tough questioning of President Trump’s appointees and Cabinet members. Democrats, she says, need a nominee who can “prosecute the case” against Trump in the general election. But at a time when many in the party are denouncing the mass incarceration of African Americans, her criminal justice background is not entirely an asset.

John Hickenlooper is considered a moderate, partly for his reservations about gun control and his support for the fossil fuel industry, including fracking.
(Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

John Hickenlooper, former Colorado governor

John Hickenlooper, a two-term former Democratic governor of Colorado, has emphasized his leadership experience to make his case for a presidential bid. In a field filled with progressive Democrats, Hickenlooper, a finalist as Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016, is viewed as more moderate; he expressed doubt before signing a gun control measure into law and once drank fracking fluid in a congressional hearing to prove it was safe. He was born in Pennsylvania and worked briefly as a geologist before opening a brewpub in Denver.

Jay Inslee is focused on fighting climate change, with a proposal to transform the U.S. economy and switch to all renewable energy by 2035.
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Jay Inslee, Washington governor

Jay Inslee’s platform focuses on one issue: climate change. “I am the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s No. 1 priority,” the two-term governor said in his announcement video. Inslee — who has warned about “insidious” greenhouse gases since 1999 — has a sweeping proposal to convert the country to 100% renewable energy by 2035, which would require an immediate transformation of the American economy. He has called for a presidential debate focused on climate change. The son of amateur conservationists, Inslee grew up hiking, skiing and kayaking in the Pacific Northwest.

Amy Klobuchar, who managed to win counties that voted for President Trump, doesn’t openly court her party’s left but shares many of its positions.
(Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota senator

Amy Klobuchar is using her Minnesotan background to appeal to a Midwestern audience. The senator, who overwhelmingly won her third term and captured rural counties Trump carried in 2016, entered the race mostly unknown to those outside her home state. She drew national attention last year during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh when she asked whether he had ever blacked out from drinking alcohol. The candidate hits many of the same points as other Democrats but has avoided using language that appeals to the party’s left.

Beto O’Rourke, known for his strong challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz last year, is working to get back in the spotlight with immigration and climate change proposals.
(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

Beto O’ Rourke, former Texas congressman

Beto O’Rourke entered the race with high expectations after he nearly unseated Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in GOP-leaning Texas in the marquee congressional contest of 2018. O’Rourke raised more than $6.1 million in 24 hours, but his star quickly faded as he avoided the kind of national television interviews that raised the profile of such rivals as Pete Buttigieg. O’Rourke, a former El Paso mayor who now accepts TV invitations almost daily, has tried to distinguish himself with far-reaching policy proposals on immigration and climate change.

Tim Ryan, a moderate, promotes working with business rather than focusing on income inequality, and suggests yoga and meditation for troubled veterans.
(Sean Rayford / Getty Images)

Tim Ryan, Ohio congressman

Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, a political moderate, has said that he wants Democrats to focus on engaging with the business community instead of attacking it over income inequality. Ryan, considered a long-shot candidate, ran unsuccessfully to replace Nancy Pelosi as House minority leader in 2016. One of Ryan’s policy ideas includes promoting yoga and meditation as a suicide prevention strategy for veterans.

Bernie Sanders is back after a strong run in 2016 with proposals rooted in democratic socialism, such as free public university and Medicare for all.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator

Bernie Sanders, the lone democratic socialist in the race, emerged as an improbable campaign rock star by mounting a surprisingly strong challenge to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race for the Democratic presidential nomination. He amassed $228 million, mainly from small donors, but ultimately lost despite a groundswell of support from younger voters. Sanders is back in the race for 2020, staking ground as an avatar of the party’s left with his calls for free college tuition and Medicare for all. But he’s no longer in a one-on-one fight against a Clinton who embodied the party establishment, now competing with nearly two dozen rivals.

Eric Swalwell says he knows from experience what it's like to struggle financially. He wants to see universal healthcare and higher taxes on the wealthy.
(Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)

Eric Swalwell, California congressman

In 2016, Rep. Eric Swalwell half-jokingly said he would run for president if Trump ran for reelection. The Californian has said that his background — one of a paycheck-to-paycheck upbringing and thousands of dollars in student debt — is one that American voters can relate to. The four-term Bay Area congressman and former prosecutor supports universal healthcare, stricter gun control, stronger efforts to battle climate change, and higher taxes on the rich.

Elizabeth Warren is gaining support with detailed plans on universal child-care, opioid addiction and abortion rights, in addition to her calls for regulating big banks and the market.
(Cliff Owen / Associated Press)

Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senator

Elizabeth Warren has offered, bit by bit, the most sweeping array of policy proposals, including universal child-care, student debt relief, opioid addiction relief, abortion rights protections and more. Her campaign mantra is, “I’ve got a plan for that!” The former Harvard law professor has steadily gained momentum in well-received town halls and candidate forums, fending off skeptics who question her electability. A self-proclaimed capitalist, she calls for stricter market regulation and is known for her sharp criticism of big banks.

Marianne Williamson says she can bring “genuine pattern disruption” to U.S. politics. She has apologized for recently saying that mandating vaccinations is draconian.
(C.J. Gunther / EPA/Shutterstock)

Marianne Williamson, author

Marianne Williamson, the author of “Tears to Triumph: The Spiritual Journey from Suffering to Enlightenment,” ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. House seat representing the California coast from Malibu to Palos Verdes in 2014. Now the self-help writer says her presidential campaign offers Americans a “genuine pattern disruption,” not just the “same-old, same-old politics.” Williamson apologized last week for calling mandated vaccinations “draconian” and “Orwellian” at an event in New Hampshire.

Andrew Yang is calling for a universal basic income partly to counter increasing automation of labor. He has managed to raise funds if not his polling numbers.
(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Andrew Yang, businessman

Former tech executive Andrew Yang has a small but enthusiastic following. His loyalists, known as the “YangGang,” were out in full force at a recent gathering of Democratic candidates in South Carolina. His signature proposal would provide a universal basic income for every American. He hardly registers in the polls, yet after an appearance on stand-up comedian Joe Rogan’s podcast, Yang quickly racked up the needed donations to qualify for the first debate. One of his big concerns is job losses prompted by automation.