The 2020 Election Democratic Primary Candidates


Zavier Jobe, Staff Writeer

The 2020 Democratic primaries may be nearly half a year away, however, the nomination process is already well underway, with three democratic debates being held up to this point. Usually primary fields do not reach into the double digits, however, the field of Democrats running in 2020 has already made it to 27 major candidates, per the Associated Press, mirroring the crowded field of Republicans that ran in 2016. This swell of candidates vying for the nomination can most likely be seen as a result of an unpopular incumbent Republican president whose approval rating remains stuck in the low 40s. Reflecting the true difficulty of running in a crowded field and struggling to gain name recognition as a lesser-known candidate some of these campaigns have already been suspended, unable to keep name recognition or simply due to a lack of fundraising. Some candidates with high credentials, such as a former governor of Colorado, New York Senator, and California Congressman, who may have been successful in a less crowded year, have already called it quits for these very reasons. This has brought the current number of major candidates running down to 19. With so many candidates running, it can be difficult to keep track of them all. Below is a list of all the major Democrats currently running, their home state, and a short bio on them. Candidates are arranged by order that they announced their campaigns. All references to polling averages are from the real clear politics average of polls for the 2020 democratic presidential nomination.

John Delaney:

John Delaney became the first Democrat to announce their run for the presidency back in 2017, less than a year after the 2016 presidential election. Delaney is the former representative from Maryland’s 6th Congressional district, which he represented in the House of Representatives from 2013-2019. Delaney justified entering the race so early by acknowledging his long-shot odds, stating that his campaign needed to build a lot of name recognition for him to have a shot at winning. Indeed polls back this notion up, with Delaney registering at zero to one percent in most national polls so far. Additionally, members of the house have historically had a harder time winning the presidency, with only one sitting House member ever transitioning straight to the presidency, James Garfield in 1881. In the modern era of U.S. politics, governors and senators have seen the most success in winning the presidency. Delaney has centered his campaign around the fact that he is a more centrist Democrat, and believes his pragmatism will allow him to form deals with Republicans in Congress. One of the main components of his platform is a mandatory national service plan for young adults coming out of high school or who have just turned 18 to “restore our sense of shared purpose.”

Andrew Yang:

Andrew Yang is campaigning as one of only three major non-politician candidates in the 2020 democratic primary. His main proposal has been UBI, which he refers to as the “Freedom Dividend”. 

This proposal would give every American over the age of 18, regardless of income, $1000 a month to spend any way they please. Yang’s argument is that extra money in the pockets of every American will allow them to pay off their debts and bills more easily, freeing up more money that can be spent in the economy. This will, in turn, boost the economy and standard of living for most Americans. Yang also claims that this will help deal with the automatization and outsourcing of American jobs overseas. Yang is currently polling in the low single digits on average.

Tulsi Gabbard:

Tulsi Gabbard has been serving as the representative for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional district since 2013. Gabbard is currently one of the youngest members of the 2020 Democratic primary field, at 37, and would be the youngest president in American history if elected. However, Gabbard is not letting critics of her young age stop her, touting her service in the Hawaii Army National Guard as proof of her ability to understand the cost of war, and the experience necessary to make tough decisions as president. During her campaign, Gabbard has highlighted her record against interventionist wars in the Middle East, claiming they are unsuccessful and cost taxpayers too much money. Gabbard also highlights her support of Medicare for All. Polls have shown that Gabbard remains a longshot to win the nomination in 2020, with her registering consistently in the low single digits.

Julian Castro:

Julian Castro served as Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2014-2017, previously Castro served as mayor of San Antonio, Texas from 2009-2014. As the only Hispanic or Latino candidate in the race, Castro believes he can connect to this demographic group that tends to support Democrats by large margins, but usually turns out in lower numbers. Castro believes that this strategy can put Arizona and his home state of Texas, which have long been Republican strongholds but have been trending toward in Democrat’s favor in recent years, in play in 2020. Castro is also focusing on universal pre-K and comprehensive immigration reform as important parts of his presidential platform. Castro has consistently been polling in the low single digits up to this point.

Kamala Harris:

Kamala Harris has been serving as the Junior Senator of California since 2017. A former prosecutor, Harris also served as California’s Attorney General from 2011-2017. Harris has highlighted her support on many social issues, such as the complete legalization of recreational marijuana, support of sanctuary cities, and the passage of the DREAM Act to protect illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. She has also released her own healthcare plan and has touted her support for criminal justice reform, although her history as attorney general has come under fire from activists. Harris is currently polling in the mid-high single digits currently, but has shown her ability to grow after surging to the mid-teens post first debate, although her gains have since receded.

Marianne Williamson:

Marianne Williamson is running as one of three non-politician candidates in 2020, along with Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer. Williamson believes that her campaign’s purpose is to create an America “where citizens awaken, our hearts and minds are uplifted, and our democracy once more becomes a thing about which we can all feel proud.” One of Williamson’s main issues is providing reparations for the descendants of slaves, which she made a strong case for at the second democratic debate. Williamson is currently polling at around zero to one percent on average nationally.

Cory Booker:

Cory Booker has been serving as the Junior Senator of New Jersey since 2013. Booker also served as mayor of Newark, New Jersey from 2006-2013. Booker took over the city during a downturn and pushed for increased affordable housing, which was largely successful with a doubling of affordable housing in the city during his first term. He also significantly reduced the city’s deficit by over $100 million. During his time in the Senate, Booker has been an advocate for prison reform and was instrumental in passing the First Step Act in 2018. As one of the two major African American candidates in the race, along with Senator Kamala Harris, Booker has sought to capitalize on this, along with his strong record on criminal justice reform to appeal to African Americans in the primary who usually make up about ¼ of Democratic primary voters. Booker has been consistently polling in the low-mid single digits.

Elizabeth Warren: 

Elizabeth Warren has been serving as Massachusetts senior senator since 2013, and is generally considered one of the most liberal members of Congress. Warren was instrumental in the formation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), during former President Obama’s first term, which is meant to fight on behalf of consumers against potential scams and fraud from big businesses. Warren’s main focus during her time in Congress has been fighting on behalf of consumers against Wall Street and other big corporations. Along with this issue, universal childcare and raising taxes on the ultra-rich and corporations are other main focuses of Warren during her campaign for president, her 2% tax on assets over $50 million is one specific proposal that she has to pay for many of her ambitious proposals. Warren is regarded as one of the top contenders for the Democratic nomination in 2020 and has consistently been rising in the polls. She is currently polling in the high teens, on average, and is roughly tied with Bernie Sanders for second place.

Amy Klobuchar:

Amy Klobuchar has been serving as the Senior Senator of Minnesota since 2007. Klobuchar is less liberal than most of her other opponents in the Democratic Primary and has called for policies such as protecting and expanding the Affordable Care Act instead of Medicare for All. As Senator of Minnesota, a Midwestern state, Klobuchar claims that she can reconnect with many of the voters in other midwestern states that traditionally vote Democrat, but voted for Donald Trump in 2016, such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Klobuchar is indeed relatively popular in her home state compared to most of her other competitors, and according to FiveThirtyEight, has a higher approval rating relative to the partisan lean of her state than most others in the race. However, despite a lot of buzz in the media surrounding her campaign and relatively strong approval rating, Klobuchar has consistently polled in the low single-digits nationally.

Bernie Sanders:

Bernie Sanders has been serving as the Junior Senator of Vermont since 2007, and previously served as Vermont’s lone representative in the House from 1991-2007. The runner up to the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination, Sanders believes that due to his greater name recognition national infrastructure, and grassroots support he is in a better position to win this time around. This is supported by the fact that he has more individual donors to his campaign than any other in the race, roughly one million as of the time this article was written, which is hundreds of thousands more than second-place Elizabeth Warren’s individual donor count. It is also the fastest any campaign has reached that mark in American history, leading Sanders to argue that this makes him the best candidate to take on Trump. Sanders is considered one of the most liberal members of Congress and is pushing Medicare for All, free public College/Universities, an increase to the minimum wage, and an increase in taxes for corporations and the ultra-rich on the campaign trail. Sanders is currently polling in the high teens, on average, and is roughly tied with Elizabeth Warren for second place.

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke served as the representative for Texas’s 16th Congressional district from 2013-2019. O’Rourke gained national fame when he narrowly lost to incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz in the 2018 Senate election in Texas. O’Rourke also raised an enormous $80 million dollars mostly from small-dollar donors across the country during that race. O’Rourke also argues that his popularity among Hispanic and Latino voters, and ability to turn them out in the 2018 race shows why he is the best candidate to take on Trump. O’Rourke has made gun reform a main pillar of his campaign after the tragic El Paso mass shooting. He has called for universal background checks, as well as an assault weapons ban and mandatory buyback program. O’Rourke is currently polling in the low single digits nationally.

Wayne Messam:

Wayne Messam has been serving as the mayor of Miramar, Florida since 2015. During his time as mayor of Miramar, Messam enacted stricter gun laws in the city and signed a letter criticizing President Trump for withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement. Messam believes that as the son of Jamaican immigrants, he can connect to the large Caribbean and immigrant community in South Florida. However, as stated before, mayors have historically had a hard time getting much support for a presidential run, and no mayor has ever made it straight to the presidency in American history. Wayne Messam has not been included in most polls, however, the polls show him at zero to one percent nationally.

Tim Ryan:

Tim Ryan has been serving as the representative for Ohio’s 13th congressional district since 2003. Ryan has made a similar argument that Klobuchar has made, that since he is from a midwestern state he is the best candidate to win back the voters there that traditionally vote Democrat, but voted for Trump in 2016. Ryan has also centered his campaign around renegotiating U.S. trade deals to stop the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, and boosting labor unions at home after the hits they have taken in the past few decades from laws, such as “right to work.” Ryan is currently polling at zero to one percent in the polls.

Pete Buttigieg:

Pete Buttigieg has been the mayor of South Bend, Indiana since 2012. Buttigieg also ran for chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2017, but later dropped out. During his two terms as mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg was praised as one of the best mayors in America, after his redevelopment program of the city was seen as a huge success in a city that was on the downturn before his election. Buttigieg won both of his elections for mayor by large margins, and is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, however, he is still considered a long shot to win the nomination. Mayors have historically had an extremely hard time at mounting a credible campaign for the presidency, no sitting mayor has ever been elected president in American history. However, he is currently polling in fifth place, at around 5%, better than most other candidates in the field.  Also, polls from Iowa show Buttigieg could be a potential dark horse candidate, with him overperforming there relative to his position in the rest of the country. With Iowa being the first state to vote in the primaries, a strong showing in the state could give Buttigieg’s campaign the energy it needs to pull of a potential victory.

Joe Biden: 

Joe Biden served as Vice President to Barack Obama from 2009-2017, and previously served as Senator for Delaware for 36 years from 1973-2009. Joe Biden has adopted a more centrist bipartisan approach to his presidential campaign, that most analysts credit to the very beginning of his career when Washington was far less polarized than it is today. Biden is currently regarded as the frontrunner of the race and is currently polling in the high 20s, although he has been trending down since he declared his candidacy. Biden claims that not only can he turn out the traditional Democratic base that propelled Obama to victory in 2008 and 2012, but also win over many Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents who have grown wary of President Trump’s rhetoric. This argument of electability has become the Biden campaign’s main issue on the campaign trail. However, activists have taken issue with his support of the 1994 crime bill, NAFTA, and the war in Iraq, saying that these are all areas Trump can easily capitalize on to attack Biden in the election. Nonetheless, Biden’s supporters claim that he is the most electable candidate as the Senator has significantly more name recognition after serving eight years as Obama’s VP, along with Democrats nostalgia of the Obama years aiding him this time around.

Michael Bennet:

Michael Bennet has been serving as the senior Senator of Colorado since 2009. Bennet has branded himself as more of a centrist Democrat, rejecting the ideas of the more progressive members of his party, such as Medicare for All and Free College. The main issues Bennet has focused his campaign on are remaking our election system to expand the number of people who vote and keep out foreign interference, and expanding funding for education. One way Bennet plans to do the latter is to expand Pell grants, which are given to low-income students going to college. Bennet is currently polling at zero to one percent.

Steve Bullock: 

Steve Bullock has been serving as the Governor of Montana since 2013. Bullock has argued that his ability to win statewide twice in a Republican-leaning state like Montana is proof that he is the most electable candidate in the race. As governor of Montana Bullock’s main issues were expanding Medicaid and campaign finance reform. As president, he would pursue a similar platform of expanding the Affordable Care Act and attempting and other centrist policies. Bullock is currently polling at zero to one percent. 

Joe Sestak: 

Joe Sestak served as the representative of Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district from 2007-2011. Sestak believes that since he is an “independent-minded politician” from a midwestern state, and a veteran, he is the best candidate to challenge Trump in 2020.

Sestak also believes that his willingness to challenge his party in the past will appeal to independents who value his country over party approach. Sestak’s main positions are shifting U.S. foreign policy to more diplomacy rather than war and implementing a trial period for a national healthcare system to have a better-informed decision going forward on what should be done about the U.S. healthcare system. Sestak is currently polling at zero to one percent.

Tom Steyer:

Tom Steyer is running as one of only three non-politician candidates in 2020. Steyer previously ran an advertising campaign calling for the impeachment of Donald Trump. As a businessman, Steyer self-funded that advertising campaign, and is mostly self-funding his presidential campaign as well. Steyers main positions as a candidate have been combating climate change, and continuing the goal of his previous campaign to impeach Donald Trump. Steyer is currently polling in the low single digits.