With the smallest number of candidates to hit the stage, yet—and on the heels of the historic impeachment of Donald Trump, the sixth Democratic presidential primary debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles provided one of the last chances for hopefuls to reshape the race.
Frontrunners former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and billionaire activist Tom Steyer took the stage. Notably absent were the two Black candidates—Sen. Kamala Harris, who exited the race on Dec. 3, and Sen. Cory Booker, who failed to qualify—and former Former Housing Sec. Julián Castro, the only Mexican American in the race, who also failed to qualify.
While the candidates began the debate unified around Trump’s impeachment, it didn’t take long for the gloves to come off. As expected, Buttigieg and Warren clashed over the presence of big money donors in political campaigns.
As ESSENCE previously reported, Buttigieg called for Warren to release additional tax returns from her more than three decades of corporate legal work. Simultaneously, Warren called for the mayor to open up his private fundraisers to reporters and reveal his client list from his three years (2007–2010) working for elite management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., which recently contracted with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Warren released compensation details from that time period, while Buttigieg released his McKinsey & Co. client list. The two candidates got into it Thursday night, with Warren calling out Buttigieg for a recent lavish fundraiser at a wine cave in California’s Napa Valley, replete with a chandelier dotted with 1,500 Swarovski crystals and $900 bottles of wine.
“We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States,” Warren said to applause. “Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.”
Buttigieg also pointed out that he was the only candidate on stage that wasn’t a millionaire or billionaire. When Warren reiterated that she didn’t sell her time to wealthy donors, Buttigieg asked, “As of when, Senator?”
The South Bend mayor pointed out that Warren transferred millions raised for her Senate campaign to her presidential campaign, which included money raised at big-dollar fundraisers. “This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass,” he said.
See the tense exchange below: