Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders asked the Democratic National Committee on Monday to increase the numbers of debates during the presidential primary.
“As I have traveled around the country, I have been hearing concerns from voters about the need for vigorous candidate debate,” Sanders said in a letter to DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “The people of this country are tired of political gossip, personal attacks and ugly 30-second ads. They want the candidates to engage in serious discussion about the very serious issues facing our country today.”
Schultz announced last month that the DNC would sanction six debates throughout the primary process, beginning in the fall of this year. Candidates who participate in outside debates risk forfeiting their eligibility to participate in the DNC sanctioned ones.
Candidates like Sanders, who is polling well behind Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, could stand to gain from the increased exposure that comes with nationally televised debates. Martin O’Malley, the other Democrat in the 2016 race, has said he is also eager to share a stage with Clinton.
“We’ve already released our primary debate framework, and we believe that six debates will give plenty of opportunity for the candidates to be seen side-by-side,” DNC press secretary Holly Shulman said in a statement. “We’ll have more details in the coming weeks, and we look forward to Senator Sanders and other candidates participating. I’m sure there will be plenty of other forums for the candidates to make their case to voters, and that they will make the most out of every opportunity.”
Clinton has said she is “looking forward to a real conversation,” but has not signaled how many of the six sanctioned debates she will participate in.
In his letter, Sanders argued that increasing the number of debates will increase voter turnout and help Democrats in 2016. He also suggested inter-party debates featuring both Democrats and Republicans on stage together and holding them outside of just the early primary and caucus states.
"We need a lot more debates in this campaign. I hope very much that we can begin with the Democratic candidate debates as early as July and have some Republicans in those debates as well,” Sanders said on "Meet The Press" on Sunday.
NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed to this report.