WESTERVILLE, OHIO - OCTOBER 15: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Vice President Joe Biden react during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Otterbein University on October 15, 2019 in Westerville, Ohio. A record 12 presidential hopefuls are participating in the debate hosted by CNN and The New York Times. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

10 things to know about the debate

Here’s what you need to know about the Democratic presidential debate in Atlanta on Nov. 20. 

1. The venue

The debate will be held Wednesday night at Tyler Perry Studios, according to several party officials, sidestepping the suburbs for the newly opened $250 million complex near Atlanta’s airport.

The studio was selected for the debate after jockeying that pitted Perry’s studio in heavily Democratic southwest Atlanta against the sparkling new performance arts center in Sandy Springs, once-solid Republican territory that’s become increasingly competitive.

The complex is the only major film studio in the nation owned by an African American, and the debate is certain to be a crowning achievement for Perry, a once-struggling playwright who, more than 20 years ago, had been kicked out of his apartment and was living out of a car.

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Now one of Atlanta’s highest-profile celebrities, Perry developed the studio complex on 330 acres of land at Fort McPherson he purchased in 2015. It features 12 massive sound stages for other Hollywood studios to rent, and sets that include a replica of the White House for his upcoming series, “The Oval.”

Perry said he named each of those sound stages after a legendary African American figure because he didn’t see any of those names on studios in Los Angeles. Among those who received their own sound stages: Denzel Washington, Cicely Tyson, Sydney Poitier, Della Reese, Diahann Carroll, Harry Belafonte and Oprah Winfrey, whose name adorns the sound stage where the debate will take place.

The decision was a blow to some who wanted the event held in Sandy Springs to reflect the party’s push to fast-changing suburbs and to showcase U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who represents the area after winning the nationally watched race for Georgia’s 6th District last year.

At one point, Democrats were buzzing about a deal to locate the debate at the 1,070-seat three-level theater at City Springs, a mixed-use development that opened last year.

“I understand this decision, but the DNC missed a great opportunity to energize and recognize the importance of Georgia’s 6th and suburban swing districts like it in Georgia and around the nation,” said Sandy Springs City Councilman Andy Bauman. “City Springs would have been a fabulous venue for this debate.”

- Staff writers Jim Galloway and Greg Bluestein

2. The event

When: Wednesday, 9-11 p.m.

Where: Soundstage 1, the Oprah Winfrey Sound Stage, at Tyler Perry Studios.

How to watch: MSNBC

3 How to attend

The debate will be a tough ticket to get as seats are limited. The Democratic National Committee announced it would place priority on getting tickets to a handful of unions and advocacy groups. Campaigns will be given an equal number of tickets for guests. 

You can fill out this form on the DNC site to request debate tickets. 

4. The moderators

Veteran NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow will moderate the next Democratic presidential debate along with reporter Kristen Welker of NBC and Ashley Parker of The Washington Post.

Mitchell and Maddow are familiar TV news figures. Mitchell has been a correspondent for NBC News since 1978, and she currently serves as chief foreign affairs reporter for NBC News. She also hosts a daytime program on MSNBC.

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Maddow, the host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC, is the cable network’s most popular personality and a longtime critic of President Donald Trump.

Both have moderated debates before. Mitchell co-moderated a Democratic candidates’ debate in 2016.

Maddow has moderated several debates, including the first Democratic debate in June and one in 2016. Her status as a liberal opinion host has raised questions about whether she should serve as a debate moderator, a role traditionally reserved for reporters.

Welker is a White House correspondent for NBC News. Parker has the same position at the Post.

- Washington Post

5. Has a debate ever featured an all-female panel?

This will not be the first primary debate to feature a lineup of female moderators. In January 2016, Trish Regan and Sandra Smith moderated one of two Republican presidential debates on Fox Business Network. Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff of PBS teamed up for a Democratic debate in February 2016. Only four women have been the sole moderator of a general election presidential debate: Pauline Frederick (1976), Barbara Walters (1976 and 1984), Carole Simpson (1992) and Candy Crowley (2012).

6. This year’s first Democratic debates

It was significantly easier to qualify for the debates held in June and July, which took place over two consecutive nights, first in Miami and then in Detroit. Each set featured a total of 20 candidates. But even with lower qualifying hurdles, not every candidate made the cut. As the qualifying got harder, the debate field narrowed, with 10 appearing at the third debate in Houston.

7. The most recent debate

A dozen candidates participated in a spirited debate over health care, taxes, gun control and impeachment in Westerville, Ohio, on Oct. 15. Sen. Elizabeth Warren found that her rise in the polls made her a clear target for attacks, particularly from more moderate challengers, and her many plans were subjected to much sharper scrutiny.

8. Recent debates here

This week’s event will be the first Democratic presidential debate held in Atlanta since March 1992, when Bill Clinton faced off against Paul Tsongas and Jerry Brown at the Carter Center. Bob Kerrey appeared via satellite hookup. The event was one of three Democratic debates in three different states over the weekend. The debate here was a prelude to the Georgia primary two days later, which Clinton won.

A Republican presidential debate was held in Atlanta in 1996, but it was missing Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, who would become the party’s nominee that year. Lamar Alexander, now a senator from Tennessee, magazine publisher Steve Forbes and conservative columnist Pat Buchanan took part. Alan Keyes, the conservative activist who was excluded from the debate, provided some excitement outside, when he tried to enter the WSB-TV studios and was briefly detained by Atlanta police.

9. Qualifying for the Atlanta debate

To score an invitation to the debate here, candidates had to receive contributions from 165,000 unique donors over the course of their campaigns.

And they had to meet one of two polling requirements:

— Two polls at 5 percent or more in the four early nominating states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina; or

— Four polls at 3 percent or more in early nominating states or national surveys.

Only polls released between Sept. 13 and Nov. 13 counted.

10. What’s next

The sixth Democratic primary debate will be held on Dec. 19 at the University of California, Los Angeles. It will be sponsored by PBS NewsHour and Politico. The format and moderators have not yet been announced.

To score an invite, candidates must receive contributions from 200,000 unique donors.

And they must meet one of two polling requirements:

— Two polls at 6 percent or more in the four early nominating states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina; or

— Four polls at 4 percent or more in early nominating states or national surveys.

Only polls released between Oct. 16 and Dec. 12 will count.

So far only five candidates have qualified for that debate: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

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