Booker, De Blasio Among Candidates In First 2020 Democratic Debate

June 27, 2019 - 9:27 am
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 MIAMI, Fla. (WCBS 880/AP) -- Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls debated on stage Wednesday night for the first time.

The first presidential debate of the 2020 season featured two local candidates, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Cory Booker.

Health care and immigration, were the debates hot topics, with candidates such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, calling for "fundamental change" across the nation's economy and government to address a widening gap between the rich and the middle class.

"I think of it this way. Who is this economy really working for? It's doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top," Warren declared shortly before raising her hand as one of the only Democrats on stage willing to abolish her own private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan. "Health care is a basic human right, and I will fight for basic human rights."

Another 10 candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden , take their turn debating Thursday night.

Warren and de Blasio backed abolishing private health insurance while former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota favored preserving the private insurance market.

O'Rourke said people who like their health care plans should be able to keep them. "We preserve choice," he said.

De Blasio challenged O'Rourke's reluctance to scrap the nation's private insurance system in favor of a single payer program

"Private insurance is not working for tens of millions of Americans," de Blasio said. "How can you defend a system that's not working?"

Immigration was a major topic as the candidates referenced the photos of a drowned Salvadoran father and his toddler daughter at the Rio Grande, blaming Trump and his policies concerning migrants crossing into America illegally.

"Watching that image of Oscar and his daughter Valeria was heartbreaking," said former Obama administration housing chief Julián Castro. "It should also piss us all off."

Castro also criticized O'Rourke for not calling for fully decriminalizing crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

"I just think it's a mistake, Beto," he said, adding that O'Rourke would agree with him "if you did your homework on this issue."

O'Rourke said that he doesn't support fully decriminalizing such border crossings, fearing smugglers of drugs and people.

Three candidates and a moderator spoke Spanish at times, while New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who's black, talked about the violence that left seven people in his own urban neighborhood shot last week.

Booker spoke for nearly 11 minutes in last night's debate, more than anyone else on stage and was also the most searched candidate on Google during the two-hour debate.

Inslee boasted that he alone among the 10 had signed a bill on reproductive rights for women.

Klobuchar spoke up for the women on stage: "I just want to say there's three women up here who have fought pretty hard for a woman's right to choose."

When it came to the economy, de Blasio distinguished himself by saying there's plenty of money, it's just in the wrong hands. 

"I want to make it clear, this is supposed to be the party of working people. Yes, we're supposed to be for 70 percent tax rate on the wealthy, yes, we're supposed to be for free college, we're supposed to break up big coporations," de Blasio said.

Trump tweeted his take on the night: "BORING!"

He also mocked NBC's technical glitches that interrupted the debate's second hour. Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd had taken over moderating duties from Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt and Jose Diaz BAlart, but somehow their microphones stayed on while they were off-camera. 

NBC went to commercial break and when they returned the issue was resolved. Trump tweeted the network "should be ashamed of themselves."

(© 2019 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report)