Sanders Campaign Challenges DNC, Welcomes ‘Disinvited’ Chair to Watch Debate

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders / AP
October 12, 2015

Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager offered a ticket to Tuesday night’s Democratic primary debate to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii), the Democratic National Committee vice chair who claims that the DNC disinvited her from the Las Vegas debate.

Gabbard told the New York Times this weekend that the DNC had revoked her invitation to the event after she publicly called for more primary debates during a television appearance.

"If she needs a ticket, have her give me a call," Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told CNN Monday. "I think we have a couple; we can give her one."

Both Sanders and his fellow Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley have called for more primary debates. The DNC has capped the number at six. O’Malley has accused Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), the party’s chairwoman, of limiting the debates in an "undemocratic" attempt to "pre-ordain the outcome" of the nomination race, namely, a Hillary Clinton win.

Gabbard and a fellow DNC official have echoed calls for more debates, a move that the Hawaii congresswoman claims prompted the DNC to disinvite her from the debate Tuesday night despite her specific request for tickets.

"When I first came to Washington, one of the things that I was disappointed about was there’s a lot of immaturity and petty gamesmanship that goes on, and it kind of reminds me of how high school teenagers act," Gabbard said Sunday night.

"It’s very dangerous when we have people in positions of leadership who use their power to try to quiet those who disagree with them. When I signed up to be vice chair of the DNC, no one told me I would be relinquishing my freedom of speech and checking it at the door."

She said that she would instead watch the debate in Hawaii.

A source close to the DNC said that an aide to Wasserman Schultz suggested to Gabbard that she should reconsider attending the debate if she kept focus on a "distraction" that could hurt the party rather than on the candidates.

The committee has insisted that it did not disinvite Gabbard from the debate.

"The focus of the debate in Nevada as well as the other debates and forums in the coming weeks should be on the candidates who will take the stage, and their vision to move America forward," said Holly Shulman, a DNC spokesperson.

"All that was asked of Ms. Gabbard’s staff was to prioritize our candidates and this important opportunity they have to introduce themselves to the American people. The Democratic Party is a big-tent party, and we embrace the diversity of opinions and ideas that come from our members."