Georgia to host November Democratic presidential debate

Georgia will host the Democratic presidential debate on Nov. 20, another indication that the state is a top political battleground in next year’s election.

Democratic Party of Georgia chairwoman Nikema Williams told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday she was not clear where the debate will be held, but that it would likely be in metro Atlanta.

“All roads to the White House run through Georgia,” she said.

State Democratic officials have aggressively lobbied the Democratic National Convention to hold the debate in Georgia, particularly given the double-header U.S. Senate races and competitive U.S. House contests.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told the AJC in September that she and other state Democrats were in "very active discussions" with the party to schedule a debate in Georgia.

“When you look at what’s at stake in Georgia — two Senate races — there aren’t many opportunities like that,” she said after the Houston debate. “To have that opportunity in Georgia, it only makes sense that we bring this field of candidates to our state.”

MoreIsakson's retirement makes Georgia 'ground zero' in 2020

MoreHow Atlanta's mayor has emerged as one of Biden's top supporters

Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer said he believed the visit from Democrats would help President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.

“I am delighted that hard working Georgians will have an up-close view of these ridiculous candidates and their ruinous proposals,” Shafer said. “It should boost the president's prospects here in Georgia.”

The Democratic Party has already held three debates in Miami, Detroit and Houston, and the fourth showdown is planned for Oct. 15 in Westerville, Ohio.

The Georgia event, co-hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post, will be the fifth Democratic debate of the cycle. The format and moderators, along with the venue, still haven’t been decided.

To qualify for the debate, candidates have to meet fundraising and polling thresholds laid out by the DNC one week before the debate.

The polling standards are slightly different than previous debates: Candidates must hit at least 3 percent in four qualifying state or national polls or 5 percent in two qualifying state polls.

And candidates must receive contributions from 165,000 unique donors, including 600 unique donors in 20 states, to qualify.

NBC News reports that eight candidates appear to have qualified already: Former Vice President Joe Biden; U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg;  billionaire Tom Steyer; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

Other candidates, including former Housing Secretary Julián Castro and ex-U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke appear to have reached the donor requirement, but have not met the polling requirements.

Georgia’s growing role as a 2020 battleground state helped bolster the state’s argument. White House hopefuls have already made more than two dozen visits to Georgia, lavishing the state with far more attention than past presidential elections.

And U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson's decision to retire at year's end means two Senate contests will be on the ballot next year and guarantees that national Democrats will pour an unprecedented amount of money and attention into the state.

“I’m thrilled that next month’s Democratic presidential debate will be held in Georgia. We are the premier battleground state up and down the ballot,” Stacey Abrams said, “and we look forward to welcoming the candidates on November 20.”

The announcement comes as some Georgia Democrats demand that the national party hire staffers and spend significant money in Georgia, a call that Abrams - the 2018 gubernatorial nominee - and other leading state figures have amplified.

In a recent interview with the AJC, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that wave of investment was coming.

“Suffice to say you won’t be wanting for attention,” she said.

Staff reporter Maya T. Prabhu contributed to this report.