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Everything you need to know about the Democratic debates in Detroit

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How to watch, who’s on stage, and what to expect

Democratic presidential candidates at the debate on June 27, 2019 in Miami, Florida
Getty Images

The second round of debates in the Democratic primary for president will take place in Detroit at the Fox Theatre on July 30 and 31. It’s hosted by CNN and will be moderated by Dana Bash, Don Lemon, and Jake Tapper.

In recent history, Detroit has been a popular location for presidential debates, as both Democrats and Republicans held them here during the 2016 cycle.

“Detroit embodies the values and character of the Democratic Party,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said. “It’s a city of grit and determination, a city that has gotten knocked down only to get back up stronger.”

We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know for the debates in 2019.

How to watch

The debates will air live on CNN, CNN International, and CNN en Español at 8 p.m. each night.

They’ll also stream live, without requiring log-in to a cable provider, on CNN.com, CNN’s apps for iOS and Android, and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, and Android TV.

There’s also numerous watch parties scheduled around the city. The voter education organization CitizenDetroit, for example, is hosting events both nights at McShane’s. Eater Detroit has compiled a great guide of venues hosting watch parties around town.

Attending the debates at the Fox Theatre is probably not possible at this point. Tickets were released through the Democratic National Committee by a lottery and there’s no box office or way to get them through a secondary market like StubHub. So, good luck?

Even if you’re not going to the debates, you should know that Woodward Avenue between Campus Martius and the Fisher Freeway will be closed both nights from 5 p.m. to midnight. The QLine also will end at Adelaide Street during the same times.

Who’s on stage

The lineups were announced last week and only 20 candidates qualified. They were selected based on a combination of polling performance and grassroots fundraising. A few who didn’t make the cut were Joe Sestak, Seth Moulton, and Tom Steyer, who announced his candidacy on July 9.

Like the first debates, will be 10 candidates each night. But unlike the first debates, CNN tried to evenly split them between the two nights based on how well they were polling. For example, each debate has two from the top tier of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Then three each from the second tier, and five from the third tier.

Here are the lineups each night:

Tuesday, July 30

  • Steve Bullock
  • Pete Buttigieg
  • John Delaney
  • John Hickenlooper
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Beto O'Rourke
  • Tim Ryan
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Marianne Williamson
Wednesday, July 31

  • Michael Bennet
  • Joe Biden
  • Bill de Blasio
  • Cory Booker
  • Julián Castro
  • Tulsi Gabbard
  • Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Kamala Harris
  • Jay Inslee
  • Andrew Yang
The stage gets prepped for the Democratic debates with podiums and video screens at the ornate Fox Theatre in Detroit
Workers prepare the debate stage at the Fox Theatre
AFP/Getty Images
What to expect

Naturally, there will be questions about the big national issues like universal health care and confrontations with Iran. But you can probably also expect questions that matter to local viewers. In 2016, Republicans debated issues around the Flint water crisis and whether or not to bail out Detroit schools.

The Detroit Regional Chamber conducted a statewide survey of Michigan voters of both parties and top four issues to voters aren’t all that surprising: border security/immigration, the president, economy and jobs, health care costs and availability. It also found that Michigan voters believe immigrants are good for the state (57 to 17 percent) and that climate change is a threat to to the state’s economy (61 to 34 percent).

You can definitely expect a continued debate about immigration, especially raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Earlier this month, ICE showed up at a restaurant in Dearborn asking for the business’s employment history and the owner refused to comply. Several recent demonstrations have taken place outside ICE offices in Detroit.

At the last debates, the candidates didn’t address housing issues, like affordability due to rising rents and homelessness. Since, Buttigieg introduced a plan targeting hyper-vacancy and the racial wealth gap, and 10 of the candidates attended the NAACP’s conference in Detroit and were asked very specifically about their housing plans.

Harris recently unveiled her Water Justice Act, a $250-billion plan to improve sustainability and safety around drinking water, and provide assistance for families that can’t afford their water bills. It would also set aside $50 billion in emergency funds to address disasters like those in Flint. The release of this plan seems strategically timed ahead of this debate in Michigan and she’ll likely try to find an opportunity to bring it up.

There will almost certainly be more questions about how candidates will deal with climate change, which was mentioned 28 times across both June debates. Recently, Detroit released its Sustainability Action Agenda and committed to greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the city. It was also part of a dangerous heat wave that swept through the Midwest and East Coast. Harris, along with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, released a climate ‘equity’ plan which details how combating climate change should also consider low-income communities.

There could be further talk about busing, a surprise issue that sparked a national conversation and which has roots in Detroit. Since Biden and Harris will once again share the stage, another confrontation on this topic seems likely.

And then of course there will be plenty of unexpected moments or questions we couldn’t possibly predict. The only way to find out will be to tune in.

Fox Theatre

2211 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201