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Democratic debate in December: Everything you need to know

The event in Los Angeles will feature the fewest candidates on stage — 7 — of any previous face off.
Image: Everything to know about December debate
Adrian Lam / NBC News

It almost didn't happen at all, but now seven candidates are set to take the stage on Thursday night at the Democratic presidential primary debate in California.

A union picket line had been announced for outside the venue, leading all of the candidates to declare they would rather miss the debate than cross it.

"I stand with them," Elizabeth Warren, the first of the candidates to step forward, said on Twitter on Friday, referring to union food service workers who were in a contract dispute with a contractor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, the site of the debate.

The union worked out a tentative deal with the contractor on Monday, and now the debate — the sixth and smallest of the election cycle to date — is on.

Here's what you need to know:

When, where is the debate?

The debate, which is being co-hosted by PBS NewsHour and Politico, is being held on the campus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. It's scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET and run approximately three hours. There will be three commercial breaks, the hosts say.

There are four moderators — Judy Woodruff, Amna Nawaz and Yamiche Alcindor of PBS NewsHour and Politico's Tim Alberta.

Who made the stage?

Because of higher qualification thresholds, only eight candidates qualified for the debate stage, and one of them, Sen. Kamala Harris, has already dropped out of the race. The seven-candidate stage is intimate compared to October and November's debates, when there were 12 and 10 candidates, respectively.

The seven who are participating are former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, billionaire activist Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

As was the case in earlier debates, stage position was determined by the polls that the Democratic National Committee used during the qualifying period, with the best-polling candidates in the center and the lower polling candidates fanning out to the sides. From left to right, the order is Yang, Buttigieg, Warren, Biden, Sanders, Klobuchar and Steyer.

What are the rules, format?

According to PBS NewsHour and Politico, there will be no opening statements. Candidates will have 1:15 minutes to respond to questions from moderators and 45 seconds for rebuttals and followups. Candidates will have one minute each for closing statements. Lower polling candidates will deliver their closing remarks first.

There will be three breaks during the expected three hour broadcast, for a total of 11 minutes.

How to watch the debate?

The debate will air live on PBS stations, as well as CNN and CNN International. It will also stream live on Politico.com, pbs.org and CNN.com.

NBCNews.com will live blog the debate, including fact checks and analysis.

When is round 7?

The seventh debate is scheduled for Jan. 14 at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and is being hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. The Register reported that debate date is subject to change, based on the schedule of the expected impeachment trial of the president.

The debate schedule picks up in pace after that — there are three scheduled for February, which will come amid crucial early-state voting contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. NBC News and MSNBC will be hosting the 9th debate in Las Vegas on Feb. 19.

Alex Seitz-Wald contributed.