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Tom Perez: New debate format is unprecedented
02:11 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

The chair of the Democratic National Committee said he’s excited about what he calls the “unprecedented” format of the 2020 presidential primary debates.

“We have spectacular candidates, and we want to give them an opportunity to show the American people their vision,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in an interview Friday with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.”

The first Democratic primary debate is scheduled for June, and the second will be held in July. NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo will partner on the June debate, while CNN will host the July event. Each debate will be held over two consecutive nights and feature randomized lineups drawn from a maximum of 20 qualifying candidates.

“We wanted to make sure we were able, if necessary, to accommodate a large field,” Perez told Camerota, adding, “It’s not simply saying you’re going to run for president, you’re going to have to meet these criteria.”

To qualify for the first two debates, candidates must meet 1% or more in three separate, DNC-approved polls and rake in campaign donations from at least 65,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 states.

If more than 20 candidates qualify, the selection would prioritize those who meet both thresholds, followed by those who meet just the polling threshold and then the grassroots fundraising.

“We want to make sure that if you’re out there connecting with the grassroots, you can get on the debate stage,” Perez told CNN, adding that the DNC wants to “reward campaigns that are investing in the grassroots.”

But he said that meeting that criteria is not going to be easy. “It’s not a layup, but it’s not a full-court shot,” he said.

“We need to win in 2020, and I think this format is going to help us do exactly that.”

The new debate format comes after accusations of bias at the DNC over its handling of the 2016 presidential primary process. The committee sanctioned six debates, leading to accusations it was trying to protect the eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton, and favoring her over Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Twelve presidential primary debates are planned during the 2020 cycle.

CNN’s David Wright contributed to this report.