The Key Moments From The First Presidential Primary Debate

Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.
The race is officially on. After months of Democrat after Democrat launching 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.
Without opening statements, and with only 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds to respond to follow-ups, candidates are under pressure to stand out and answer, Why should voters pick you as the Democratic presidential nominee?
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. (And check out our live blog of the key moments from the second night of the debate.)

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 first on the presidential debate stage, signals that she's well-aware young Latinx voters are a growing voting bloc.
Beto 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, Sen. Cory Booker also addressed the Spanish-speaking community directly. Later, Julián Castro briefly spoke Spanish in his closing statement.

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.

A divide emerged on Medicare for All.

Warren and Mayor Bill de Blasio were the only ones to raise their hands when moderator Lester Holt asked who is in favor of abolishing private insurance in favor of a Medicare for All plan.
After Gov. Jay Inslee pointed out that he was the only lawmaker on stage who has signed a law protecting a woman’s right 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 women should have full control of their reproductive healthcare.
Castro then promised 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 people. Warren added that she has a plan to codify access to abortion in the federal statute.

Trump weighed in.

Candidates brought up Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez's death and conditions in border detention centers.

The candidates got heated about the current administration’s immigration policies. 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 an 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 a spar with fellow Texan O’Rourke over decriminalizing border crossings. Castro and Warren have called for the decriminalization of border crossings, while O'Rourke's platform does not call for such a proposal.

As the candidates discussed gun violence, the Parkland activists demanded more than talk about mass shootings.

As the debate turned to the issue of gun violence, Booker was asked about his proposal of a federal buyback program, part of his gun reform plan, and 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, Warren cited the statistic that seven children die every day due to gun violence, calling it a “national health emergency.” She also said she wants to “double down on research” to figure out how to address it.

Gov. Jay Inslee got 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, calling climate change 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.”
To make his agenda possible, Inslee said it's important to break Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's iron grip on the Republican-led Senate. "By taking away the filibuster from Mitch McConnell. To start this, we have to do that," he said, referring to Senate rules that require for most bills to be approved by a 60-vote majority.

Sen. 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 highlighting that Black transgender people in the U.S. face disproportionate levels of violence. This year alone, seven Black transgender 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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