She Did It: Gillibrand Hits Donor Threshold for DNC Debate Three Months After Andrew Yang

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
June 10, 2019

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) has crossed the 65,000-donor threshold to virtually assure herself a place in the first two Democratic primary debates, albeit after lesser-known candidates like Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson.

Gillibrand emailed supporters Monday morning to let them know her campaign hit the number over the weekend.

The DNC is limiting participants in the first two sets of debates in June and July to 20 candidates. They had to either hit one percent support in three reputable state or national polls or get 65,000 unique donations, with at least 200 coming from 20 different states. Since 24 Democrats are in the race, priority will go to those who have hit both standards.

Gillibrand was the last female candidate in the 2020 Democratic field to pass both thresholds. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) and Williamson, an author and self-described spiritual guru, all already made it.

Gillibrand communications director Meredith Kelly cited Gillibrand's strong stance on abortion rights and her Fox News town hall as getting her over the hump before the June 12 deadline. Gillibrand's campaign has tried to make hay of Fox News moderator Chris Wallace calling her not "polite" for her attacks on his network during the town hall, selling "not very polite" merchandise and using it to lead off her speech in Iowa on Sunday.

Gillibrand spent more than $400,000 over the past month to try to drive donations to her campaign, including $175,000 in the one-week span from May 29 to June 4. Her presidential campaign has struggled to get off the ground, frequently polling at one or zero percent in early-primary states and failing to generate the buzz of front-runners like Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Warren and Harris.

Yang, an entrepreneur with no political experience who is proposing a universal basic income of $1,000 a month, hit the donor number on March 11.

Gillibrand has been critical of the DNC's debate thresholds, which are sterner for the third debate scheduled for September—candidates must get two percent support in four approved polls, as well as receive 130,000 unique donations.

"I think it's random and inaccurate, but it's their choice," Gillibrand told CNN. "They're the DNC, so I'll follow the rules that are given and I'll have to play by the rules. … I don't think it's a measure of success. I don't think it's a measure of electability. I don't think it's a measure of quality of candidate."

She warned supporters in her announcement email that they still had work to do.