By Khushbu Shah
Though we’re over a year out from the next presidential election — mark your calendars for November 3, 2020! — nearly 200 people have already registered as Democratic presidential candidates. Yes, that’s right: two hundred. Sometimes, it feels like the number may be even higher, with nearly weekly announcements from politicians and personalities who would like to have a chance to tout their platforms — ranging from support for the New Green Deal, a universal healthcare system, raising the minimum wage, and dismantling ICE — on a national stage.
There’s still time for more people to announce their intentions in the coming months, though only one will eventually be tapped as the official Democratic contender at the Democratic National Convention in July 2020. Before then, the party will hold a series of primaries and caucuses, beginning in Iowa on February 3, 2020, followed by New Hampshire on February 11. Though subsequent primary elections will take place in all 50 states, those two states are key for contenders to discern where they stand and how they will fare running up to the convention.
The Democrats, of course, aren’t the only people aiming to unseat Trump; as Vox notes, several Republicans have suggested they might want to run against the incumbent President, though others want to close the loophole that would allow for that. On the third-party level, Dario Hunter is seeking a bid as a candidate for the Green Party, while former Drag Race model Ronnie Kroell is running as an independent. And though former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced he was considering running for office as an independent candidate, he has yet to make a formal bid.
Here’s a look at some of the notable candidates to keep an eye on for now, as we wait for primaries to whittle down the list.
Senator Cory Booker
Political experience: former mayor of Newark, New Jersey; current U.S. senator for New Jersey
Booker has been a vocal opponent of President Trump, saying there is an “urgent need” to oust the Republican president from office. Even before announcing his intention to run for president, he has been clear in his dislike for the current administration, and notably released confidential emails from Brett Kavanaugh during the latter’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing last year. His co-sponsoring of the “Medicare for All” bill and the “New Green Deal" to reduce the impact of climate change are his early campaign promises as he makes the rounds in the South. He is also quick to roast himself on social media; when someone criticized his jeans on Twitter, he joined in with an all-time diss from his own dad.
Political experience: current mayor of South Bend, Indiana
Back in 2016 — well before Buttigieg announced he was running on January 23, 2019 — the New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni thought the wunderkind millennial had a shot at being the first LGBTQ president of the United States. He’s 37 — mayor since he was 29, a Rhodes scholar, and a Navy veteran — and ready for a change. As he said to the Washington Post in January, “The case here is simple: That it’s time for a new generation of leadership in our country.” Though he hasn’t been too specific yet about the policies he’d like to focus on during the campaign, he did tell NPR the election should be focused on "inter-generational justice."
Political experience: former mayor of San Antonio, Texas; former U.S. secretary of housing and urban development under the Obama administration
Castro announced his run in San Antonio on January 12, 2019, and said he wanted “to make sure that the opportunities that I’ve had are available for every American.” The Stanford- and Harvard-educated politician has his sights on an universal pre-K program, universal higher education programs, and investment in education. He’s the first and, so far, only major Latinx candidate to announce he’s running; his first campaign stop was to Puerto Rico in January.
Political experience: former U.S. representative for Maryland's sixth congressional district
Delaney began his campaign in July 2017, well before most other Democrats had made official announcements, and was already stumping in Iowa by November 2018. One of the lesser-known candidates, the former representative is focusing his campaign on pushing for a universal healthcare system (though not one that is single-payer), universal minimum wage, and early-childhood education improvements, according to The Atlantic.
Representative Tulsi Gabbard
Political experience: current U.S. representative for Hawaii’s second congressional district
Before she formally announced her run for president on January 11, 2019, the Iraq war veteran told Van Jones she would be campaigning on the platform of “war and peace.” She’s a candidate who has been surrounded by controversy: In 2017, she told CNN’s Jake Tapper she met Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad while on a “fact-finding mission”, without informing high-ranking Democrats, and denounced the U.S.-backed opposition to al-Assad as “terrorists.” Critics have also pointed to her ties to anti-LGBTQ groups, including an anti-LGBTQ organization run by her father; she has since apologized for comments she made saying there is a need to protect “traditional marriage” when she opposed gay marriage in the early 2000s. “In my past, I said and believed things that were wrong, and worse, they were very hurtful to people in the LGBTQ community and to their loved ones,” she said in a video statement this year, right around the time she announced she was running.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Political experience: current U.S. senator for New York
Gillibrand announced her run on the Late Show on January 15, 2019; she told CBS’s Stephen Colbert she wants to run “because as a young mom, I'm going to fight for other people's kids as hard as I would fight for my own.” In that vein, she’s focused on universal paid family leave as one of her top agendas. Like other Democrats, she’s also called for abolishing the federal government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, better known as ICE.
Senator Kamala Harris
Political experience: former attorney general for California; current U.S. senator for California
Harris announced her run for president on ABC’s Good Morning America on January 21, 2019; she chose Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to launch her campaign because revered civil rights leader was a source of inspiration for her run for office. A daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, Harris grew up in Oakland, and worked her way up from the San Francisco district attorney to attorney general before being elected as senator in 2017. Though some people have interpreted her record as attorney general as an indication that she may not be reformer she claims to be, Harris has stayed focused on the policy changes she advocates. Among the platforms at the forefront: a single-payer healthcare system and a system to bring tax relief for low-income populations. She's also worked pop culture into her campaign in a way other candidates have yet to: she's a Cardi B fan.
Political experience: former governor of Colorado
In a campaign video released on March 4, 2019, Hickenlooper said, "I'm running for president because we're facing a crisis that threatens everything we stand for.” Hickenlooper is a moderate Democrat who has historically supported the oil and gas industries.
Political experience: serves on the Board of Education for Youngstown, Ohio
The 35-year-old Ohio rabbi has entered the race, vying for the Green Party’s nomination. So far, he’s the only one. In an interview with Cleveland.com, he heavily criticized the state of Israel, and said, “I do not believe the United States should be providing any form of aid to Israel or any human-rights abusers.” His platform also includes a single-payer “Medicare For All” healthcare plan and he plans to transition the United States to renewable energy entirely.
Governor Jay Inslee
Political experience: current governor for Washington
Inslee officially threw his hat into the ring on March 1, 2019. Early polling released well before he had announced his candidacy showed only one percent of those responding saying they’d vote for Inslee. He has already started making the media rounds, speaking to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos about his central campaign platform: climate change, which has been his focus for months. “There is a huge cost to our economy, our health and national security if we do not act," he told the network anchor. In 2017, he co-created the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan group of states and territories that are committed to upholding the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Senator Amy Klobuchar
Political experience: current U.S. senator for Minnesota
She’s a three-term Minnesota senator who has won all of her elections by large margins, and calls herself “The Senator Next Door.” But her presidential run has already been mired by previous staff alleging that the senator subjected them to constant putdowns and demands; the New York Times notably reported that Klobuchar once angrily ate a salad with a comb after her staff forgot to include a fork with her meal. Then, there were reports that though she publicly endorses paid family leave, she did not support the same for her staff. She has remained focused on her key issues: lowering drug prices but stopping short of supporting "Medicare for All," protecting and regulating online data, and re-joining the Paris Agreement her first day in office.
Senator Bernie Sanders
Political experience: current U.S. senator for Vermont
Bernie’s back. Sanders launched his second attempt at a presidential campaign with a very personal rally cry from Brooklyn, New York on March 2, 2019. He lost to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary in 2016 but, for now, he’s leading in many of the polls, and received nearly $6 million dollars in campaign donations just 24 hours after he announced he would run again, CNBC reported. Sanders is a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist who led the charge for the “Medicare for All” bill, a single-payer government-run healthcare plan meant to replace the Affordable Care Act which Republicans have been dismantling for the last two years. He’s also an advocate for making America affordable for low and middle-income families, pushing for tuition-free college for all, and a livable wage.
Senator Elizabeth Warren
Political experience: current U.S. senator for Massachusetts
Soon after establishing an exploratory committee at the end of 2018, Warren headed straight for Iowa and New Hampshire, battleground states that will serve as primary kickoffs for the 2020 election. The well-established Democrat has mostly ignored President Trump’s regular jabs, which include a derogatory nickname, which she has responded to by releasing the results of her own DNA test, which led to more jibes. Instead of staying on the offensive, the veteran politician’s focus remains on economic inequality, and fighting corporate greed and political corruption.
William F. Weld
Political experience: former governor of Massachusetts
Weld was also the Libertarian Party’s 2016 vice presidential candidate. This time, he’s back to potentially challenge President Trump as a Republican candidate, though, for now, he has only formed an exploratory committee. Weld is a moderate Republican who supports both gay marriage and abortion rights, though he is fiscally conservative. The 73-year-old is the first to challenge the president for the Republican nomination so far, but the New York Times notes, he is unlikely to have much traction.
Political experience: none
The self-help guru, who is a friend of Oprah’s, has no political experience, but said in a video announcement that he campaign will be “a co-creative effort, an effort of love and a gift of love, to our country and hopefully to our world.” She officially announced her intentions on November 16, 2018. While it might be easy to write her off as another celebrity running for president, she has hit the ground running in Iowa already, publicizing events on Twitter. On her campaign website, she lists out 21 issues she aims to address as president, as well as her stances on issues like child advocacy, combatting genetically modified food, and overturning long-term bans on immigrants.
Political experience: none
The former tech executive, who also joined the now-crowded field in 2017, has made multiple visits to Iowa and New Hampshire, just like some of the established politicians who have joined the race. Yang, an entrepreneur from New York, has made his argument for a universal basic income his top priority on the campaign trail, arguing that all Americans should receive $1,000 per month, no questions asked. He’s made his way onto early polls, though he didn’t fare too well, polling at the bottom of the then-declared candidates, with one percent of the responders saying they would vote for him.