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Phoenix to host Democratic presidential debate in March

From left, Democratic presidential candidates entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, businessman Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., depart the stage after a Democratic presidential primary debate, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, hosted by ABC News, Apple News, and WMUR-TV at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

PHOENIX – The road to the Democratic presidential nomination officially goes through Arizona.

Phoenix will host a candidate debate March 15, two days before voters go to the polls for the state’s presidential preference election, the Democratic National Committee announced Friday.

“I think the Democratic National Committee made a great decision by deciding to host a presidential debate in the city of Phoenix,” Mayor Kate Gallego told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “We really are the right place to have a debate.

“It cements our state’s important role in selecting the next president of the United States.”

Early voting starts next week and will have been underway for nearly a month by the time of the debate, which will be presented by the DNC in partnership with Hispanic political action committee CHC Bold and televised live on CNN and Univision.

“It will be a great chance for us to get a last take at the candidates,” Gallego said. “But I know that Arizonans will be looking and listening long before the March 15 debate.”

Gallego said the city worked for months to secure the event. The location, moderator and format have not yet been determined.

The Phoenix event will be the 11th Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 campaign as the party looks to nominate a challenger to President Donald Trump.

“Arizona is a battleground state, and it’s clear Democrats can win here at every level of the ballot. After historic Democratic victories in 2018, we’re putting the Republicans on defense in the Grand Canyon State,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a press release.

“This debate will showcase our Democratic presidential candidates, highlight Trump’s record of broken promises and make it clear that Democrats are fighting to give Arizonans a better future.”

The party has completed eight of its planned 12 debates, the most recent being held earlier this month in New Hampshire before that state’s primary.

The field has been winnowed down to eight candidates since then: Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren.

With 14 states voting during Super Tuesday on March 3, the field could be smaller by the time it gets to Phoenix.

The next Democratic debate is set for Wednesday in Las Vegas.

In October 2019, Gallego told KTAR News the DNC previously scouted Arizona locations, many of which were in Phoenix, for the June 2019 debate that ended up being held in Miami.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.

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