Your TL;DR Guide to the 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates

presidential candidates

Election season is upon us once again, and with the avalanche of presidential campaign announcements, it can be hard to keep track of who’s running against Donald Trump in 2020. This quick guide to the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates will bring you up to speed on conversations happening around them. This list will be updated as more announcements occur.

Kamala Harris

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Born: Oct. 20, 1964, in Oakland, California

Previously: U.S. senator of California (elected in 2016, second African American woman in history to be elected to the Senate), Attorney General of California (elected in 2011, first African American and woman to serve in the position)

Campaign Issues: Supports Green New Deal, Medicare for All, tax cuts for the middle class, raising minimum wage to $15, free higher education, protecting legal rights of refugees and immigrants

The TL;DR: Harris’ campaign, which launched in January, raised $1.5 million in the first 24 hours. Harris was met with criticism of her previous criminal justice voting record as San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general. She called herself a “progressive prosecutor” but her records were full of contradictions. Harris partially addressed some of these concerns when launching her presidential campaign in January, taking “full responsibility” but not providing any further details.

Since then, Harris has come out in support of the abolition of the death penalty and applauded California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, for banning the death penalty in the state. With a biracial African American and South Asian heritage, she is one of two women of color in the presidential race and a front-runner candidate.

Pete Buttigieg

Born: Jan. 19, 1982, in South Bend, Indiana

Previously: Mayor of South Bend (since 2012); veteran of the War in Afghanistan

Campaign Issues: Supports Green New Deal, removal of troops in Afghanistan, gun control legislation, providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, single-payer healthcare system

The TL;DR: A Harvard graduate and a Rhodes Scholar from Oxford University, Buttigieg made waves as the first openly gay Democratic candidate to run for president. With his successful history as a mayor in South Bend, the Washington Post called the millennial “the most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of,” and Former President Barack Obama called him the “future of the Democratic Party.”

The candidate recently proposed to expand the Supreme Court to 15 justices from the standard of nine, a concept called court packing. While he hasn’t revealed specifics about his other policies yet, he raised $600,000 in 24 hours after his CNN Town Hall, gaining mainstream traction.

Amy Klobuchar

Born: May 25, 1960, in Plymouth, Minnesota

Previously: U.S. senator of Minnesota (since 2007)

Campaign Issues: Cybersecurity, climate change and rejoining the Paris Agreement, affordable healthcare, supports Medicare expansion (but has not announced if she’ll back Medicare for All), prescription drug reform, election reform, wants to reform ICE without abolishing it

The TL;DR: Klobuchar was the first female senator of Minnesota and is infamously known for maltreating her staff. Buzzfeed and The New York Times exposed Klobuchar’s regular humiliation of her employees.

While she has the highest staff turnover rate in the Senate, Klobuchar is still wildly popular amongst her Minnesotan constituents. She is not as progressive or left-leaning as some of her fellow presidential candidates.

Cory Booker

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Born: April 27, 1969, in Washington, D.C.

Previously: U.S. senator of New Jersey (since 2013), Mayor of Newark (2006-2013)

Campaign Issues: Supports Medicare for All, criminal justice reform, Green New Deal, legalization of marijuana, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights

The TL;DR: Booker has been described as a liberal but shies away from taking on the progressive label. While socially liberal, Booker has close ties to big Pharma and Wall Street.

Most recently, he has made headlines for his relationship with actress and activist Rosario Dawson. Booker is one of the few senators who still lives in the neighborhood that he grew up in and represents.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Born: Dec. 9, 1966, in Albany, NY

Previously: U.S. senator of New York (since 2009), member of the House of Representatives for New York’s 20th district (2007-2009)

Campaign Issues: Wants to create a better path to college for low-income students, supports Green New Deal, sexual assault reform in the military, childcare for women in the workforce and school, Medicare for All, affordable healthcare, want to eliminate and “reimagine” ICE

The TL;DR: Deemed the “Me Too” senator, Gillibrand has been outspoken on sexual assault in the military and sexual harassment. She openly criticized her colleagues Bill Clinton and Al Franken for sexual misconduct and was the first to ask for Franken’s resignation. However, Gillibrand is currently under fire for how her office handled sexual assault claims. A former aide of Gillibrand resigned in protest of how Gillibrand’s office dealt with her sexual harassment claim, criticizing the senator for not abiding by her own public stances.

Since her time in the House and Senate, Gillibrand has shifted more left in her policies. Whereas previously she had a 100 percent voting record with the National Rifle Association, Gillibrand now is “embarrassed” about that stance and supports gun control legislation.

[Read Related: Women are Rising in Politics — So Why Don’t More Brown Girls Run for Office?]

Tulsi Gabbard

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Born: April 12, 1981, in Leloaloa, American Samoa

Previously: Member of House of Representatives for Hawaii’s 2nd district (since 2013), Honolulu City Council (2011-2012)

Campaign Issues: Reproductive rights, abortion rights, Medicare for All

The TL;DR: Gabbard, the first Samoan and first Hindu member of Congress, attracted controversy since her campaign announcement. She has publicly apologized for her previous anti-LGBT rights stance and voting record.

However, she has not explained her close ties to India’s BJP party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who have a history of being anti-Muslim, and her strong opposition to the removal of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad.

John Delaney

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Born: April 16, 1963, in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey

Previously: Member of House of Representatives for Maryland’s 6th district (since 2013)

Campaign Issues: Universal health care (but not Medicare for All), supports the Affordable Care Act, raising the corporate tax rate to fund infrastructure, a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights

The TL;DR: In July 2017, Delaney was one of the first dominant Democrats to enter the presidential race. A self-made millionaire, he started campaigning in Iowa over a year ago and self-funded television ads in the state.

Delaney doesn’t support Medicare for All, stating that Medicare works and doesn’t need to be reformed. He does want universal healthcare with the option to allow people to choose to buy insurance from a private market. As a congressman, he co-sponsored the DREAM Act and wants to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. One of his top priorities as a presidential candidate is an investment in infrastructure.

Bernie Sanders

Born: Sept. 8, 1941, in Brooklyn, New York

Previously: U.S. senator from Vermont (since 2007)

Campaign Issues: Raising minimum wage to $15 per hour, increase taxation on wealthy, $1 trillion infrastructure that would create jobs, Medicare for All, Green New Deal, free tuition for public colleges and universities

The TL;DR: Unlike in 2016, Sanders entered the presidential race as a frontrunner, raising $3.3 million in the first 24 hours of his campaign announcement. This time around, instead of facing an establishment politician, Sanders is facing candidates who have adopted a lot of the policies that he ran on in 2016.

An outspoken progressive, Sanders was recently applauded for supporting freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar against establishment Democrats in the House. Sanders has also gone on record to call out Wall Street, big pharma and Amazon for not paying their employees enough. Sanders also drafted the Medicare for All bill, which is supported by many of his colleagues also running for the presidency.

Elizabeth Warren

Born: June 22, 1949, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Previously: U.S. senator from Massachusetts (since 2013), Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus

Campaign Issues: 2 percent tax on those whose net worth exceeds $50 million, economy, Medicare for All, elimination of tuition for public colleges, Green New Deal, abolishment of ICE, protection of Planned Parenthood, reproductive rights

The TL;DR: Warren, the first female senator of Oklahoma and known for her outspoken nature, was the first major candidate to enter the 2020 race. A prime target for Donald Trump, Warren found herself in hot water when she claimed to have Native American heritage and took a DNA test to prove it after taunts from Trump. The Cherokee Nation released a statement saying, “Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation of any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong.” Warren since apologized. Warren has centered her campaign around progressive policies.

Beto O’Rourke

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Born: Sept. 26, 1972, in El Paso, Texas

Previously: Member of House of Representatives for Texas’s 16th district (since 2013)

Campaign Issues: Immigration, no wall, Green New Deal, rejoining Paris Agreement, criminal justice reform, universal healthcare, Medicare expansion under ACA, stricter gun laws

The TL;DR: O’Rourke first gained national attention when a NowThis video of his response to a question about NFL players kneeling during the anthem went viral. This added to his platform for the 2018 Senate race in Texas against Ted Cruz, which he lost by a mere 3 points. A race that close in a red state is a rarity.

With support from celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce, and Lebron James, O’Rourke also gained mainstream influence. However, his limited House record and policy vagueness in his speeches has attracted criticism. With his newly launched campaign, he has yet to declare his clear stances on most issues, including immigration.

[Read Related: 6 Presidential Candidates Young Desis Want to Run in 2020]

Andrew Yang

Born: Jan. 13, 1975, in Schenectady, New York

Previously: Founder of Venture for America (CEO until March 2017)

Campaign Issues: Universal basic income, Medicare for All, human-centered capitalism, a pathway to citizenship for immigrants

The TL;DR: The fourth Asian American presidential candidate in American history and an entrepreneur, Yang provides the most detailed policies on every issue, from immigration to making Puerto Rico a state, through his campaign website. He made waves with the unconventional policies his campaign is centered around, like universal basic income—a form of social security that ensures that every citizen receives a certain amount of money, without having to work or fill any other requirements. He also proposed to create a “White House psychologist corps” that would provide mental health services and screenings to administration staff.

Yang has captivated the internet, thanks to his supporters who called themselves the “Yang Gang.” The “Yang Gang” plastered the Internet with memes, songs and music videos about his candidacy. While still a fringe candidate with minimal support from Democrats, Yang’s virality has made him a recognized candidate on the Internet.

John Hickenlooper

Born: Feb. 7, 1952, in Narberth, Pennsylvania

Previously: Governor of Colorado (since 2011)

Campaign Issues: Gun control legislation, reducing methane emissions, expanding Medicaid

The TL;DR: Hickenlooper opposed the medicinal use and decriminalization of possession of marijuana in Denver in 2006. In 2015, he stated that the addition of Amendment 64, which legalized the recreational use of one ounce of cannabis, was “reckless” on the part of the voters, but he has since stated that his views have evolved.

Hickenlooper is running as a centrist, defining himself as a “beacon of optimism” in a Trump America.

Jay Inslee

Born: Feb. 9, 1951, in Seattle, Washington

Previously: Member of House of Representatives for Washington’s 1st district

Campaign Issues: Climate change, building a clean energy economy

The TL;DR: Called the “greenest governor in the country,” Governor Inslee is centering his presidential campaign around combating climate change through economy, innovations and creating clean energy jobs in the country.

Julian Castro

Born: Sept. 16, 1974, in San Antonio, Texas

Previously: U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (2014-2017), Mayor of San Antonio (2009-2014)

Campaign Issues: Medicare for All, universal health care, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, gun control

The TL;DR: Castro is the only Latino running in 2020 so far. Trailing behind in donations, Castro recognizes that he’s not a frontrunner but refers back to the story of his childhood: Despite coming from a poor financial background, being raised by his mother and grandmother, he succeeded. Encouraging his supporters to donate just $1 to the campaign, Castro believes he can surge closer to the top.

Castro first got national attention after delivering the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2012. He is left-leaning in his policies so far but has not provided many details yet.

Marianne Williamson

Born: July 8, 1952, in Houston, Texas

Previously: Spiritual teacher, author of 13 books including “Healing the Soul of America”

Campaign Issues: Climate change, child advocacy, criminal justice reform, crime prevention

The TL;DR: Williamson is a motivational speaker and self-help author who has advised Oprah Winfrey since the ’90s. Williamson believes many of the country’s issues can be traced back to slavery, thus believing there is a need for reparations.

Some claim that due to her wealthy background, she’s a bit out of touch from the everyday citizen. However, Williamson says she’s here to “harness love…dignity and decency and compassion.”

By Hera Ashraf

Hera is a Bollywood encyclopedia, coffee obsessed Yelp Eliter, and sometimes writer, who is currently living in DC, pursuing a … Read more ›

Oak Creek: A Story of Hate, Hope and Healing

Every year on August 5th, the Sikh American community remembers one of our community’s most devastating tragedies in recent memory — the Oak Creek massacre. On this day in 2012, a white supremacist gunman entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, a gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin where he shot and killed six worshippers and severely injured others. This violent attack was the deadliest mass shooting targeting Sikh Americans in U.S. history, and at the time, was one of the worst attacks on a U.S. house of worship in decades. Six worshippers — Paramjit Kaur Saini, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh, Suveg Singh Khattra, and Satwant Singh Kaleka — were killed on that horrific day. An additional community member, Baba Punjab Singh, was severely paralyzed and ultimately passed away from complications related to his injuries in 2020. Others, including Bhai Santokh Singh and responding police officer and hero, Lt. Brian Murphy, were seriously wounded during the shooting. 

[Read Related: Oak Creek Gurdwara Massacre’s 4th Anniversary: Young Sikhs Express Optimism for the Continued Struggle Against Hate and Ignorance]

In 2022, the community came together to demonstrate that we are undaunted. My organization, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) joined in supporting the anniversary observance at Oak Creek: a remembrance event centered around the theme of “Heal, Unite, Act.” The Oak Creek Sikh community hosted a series of in-person events, including the 10th Annual Oak Creek Sikh Memorial Anniversary Candlelight Remembrance Vigil on Friday, August 5, 2022. The program included a representative from the White House, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Oak Creek Mayor Dan Bukiewicz, and representatives of the families who lost loved ones. Being there in Oak Creek 10 years after the tragedy was deeply meaningful — both to see the inspiring resilience of this community and to remember how much remains to be done.

In D.C., SALDEF continues to fight for policies that improve the lives of Sikh Americans. I had the honor of chairing the most recent iteration of the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council at the Department of Homeland Security, providing recommendations at the request of Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. Consequently, the three subcommittees published a report that emphasized the importance of greater accessibility, greater equity, and greater transparency in counterterrorism efforts that for too long revolved around surveilling populations like the one that was senselessly attacked at the Oak Creek gurdwara in 2012. Leading the FBSAC as a Sikh woman, and representing a community that was highly targeted alongside Muslims by both white supremacists and in post-9/11 counterterrorism profiling, was an opportunity to push the Council to advocate more fiercely for further information-sharing between communities and law enforcement, extending grant opportunities for security for Gurdwaras and other houses of worship, and building trust between the government and Sikh communities. In addition, I advocated for accountability for the damage needlessly caused to Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and Hindu (MASSAH) communities by federal agencies historically pursuing “counterterrorism” objectives which has resulted in eroded trust rather than the development of strong partnerships. 

Although we have made great strides in this country, there is still more to do. Through our work we have partnered with many across the nation to come together and find solutions through tenets central to Sikhism and America — unity, love, and equality. SALDEF continues to strongly endorse the policy framework articulated across the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 350 / S. 963); Justice for Victims of Hate Crimes Act; and the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) Improvement Act (H.R. 6825). We believe strongly in mandating federal agencies to create dedicated offices to investigate domestic terrorism; allowing prosecutors to feasibly indict perpetrators of hate crimes; and allowing religious nonprofits to access federal funding to enhance their own security.

[Read Related: Anti-Sikh Hate is on the Rise: Here’s What we can Do]

While 11 years have passed, the effects of the Oak Creek shooting are never far from the minds of Sikh American advocates and the community we serve. SALDEF will not stop taking a stand against senseless violence and hate crimes. We continue to work in unity with our community and movement partners, and fight for better policies that will actively keep all of our communities safe. Through tragedy, we find hope. We know there can be a world where people from all backgrounds and cultures can practice their faith freely and, even though it has eluded the Sikh American community in the past, we still believe this world is possible.

Photo Courtesy of Amrita Kular

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By Kiran Kaur Gill

Kiran Kaur Gill is an accomplished professional with exemplary executive experience. In her role as Executive Director, she is responsible … Read more ›

Op-Ed: An Open Letter to President Biden in Light of Prime Minister Modi’s Visit to the States

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit
The following open letter is written by Hindus for Human Rights, an organization advocating for pluralism, civil and human rights in South Asia and North America, rooted in the values of Hindu faith: shanti (peace), nyaya (justice) and satya (truth). They provide a Hindu voice of resistance to caste, Hindutva (Hindu nationalism), racism, and all forms of bigotry and oppression.

Dear President Biden,

As Indian-Americans, human rights organizations, and concerned allies, we are writing to urge you to engage publicly and meaningfully to push back against the Indian government’s escalating attacks on human rights and democracy, especially ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the United States.

Despite objective evidence that India’s democracy is under critical attack, you have not spoken out about this crisis. In early 2023, Indian authorities conducted retaliatory raids on the BBC’s Delhi and Mumbai offices for releasing a documentary about Prime Minister Modi. The week before the Summit for Democracy, the Indian government made three successive attacks on Indian democracy. First, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party expelled Rahul Gandhi from Parliament. Second, the Indian government shut the internet down in Punjab, severely impacting the rights for Sikhs to peacefully organize and protest. And third, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that Indians can be found guilty by association for terrorism. And yet, not one representative from the Biden Administration said anything about even one of these developments. Instead, while Islamophobic violence gripped India in late March, you invited Prime Minister Modi to speak at the Summit for Democracy. Mr. Modi visits DC at a time when the state of Manipur has experienced heavy communal and anti-Christian violence after Modi’s ruling party pushed an initiative to undermine Indigenous rights in the state.

Even when confronted with questions by Indian reporters about human rights in India, your administration has only had private two-way conversations about how both of our governments can always improve. Quite frankly, we find it unacceptable to see such equivocation on Indian democracy from an administration that has been strident in its defense of American democracy and the rule of law. 

India is one of the fastest autocratizing nations in the world, mostly thanks to the current government. Freedom House has rated India as a “partly-free” country for the past three years, and has blamed Prime Minister Modi’s government for a rise in discriminatory policies, including persecution against Muslims and caste-based violence against Dalit and Adivasi communities; harassment of civil society, protestors, academia and the media, and the targeting of political opponents. It has also rated Indian-administered Kashmir as “not free,” citing violations of human, civil, and political rights after the Modi government revoked the territory’s autonomous status. In Reporters Without Borders press freedom ranking, India has dropped to 161 out of 180 countries in 2023. India has appeared in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Impunity Indexwhich examines accountability for unsolved journalists’ murders — every year for the past 15 years and currently ranks in 11th place worldwide. According to PEN America’s Freedom to Write Index, in 2022, India was one of the top 10 countries that jailed writers globally. The Varieties of Democracy Institute characterizes India as an “electoral autocracy” and blames India’s descent into autocracy on Prime Minister Modi. And the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has said India has been one of the top 15 countries at risk for a mass atrocity event every year since 2017, which reflects the toxicity of Indian politics under Modi. 

Given the magnitude of this crisis, we ask you to engage directly with Indian-American and human rights civil society leaders to explore solutions to address India’s human rights crisis. We also ask you to employ the tools at your disposal to ensure that the Indian government cannot attack Indians’ human rights with impunity. As the 2022 Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor report details, several government individuals have committed human rights violations that, under U.S. law, would qualify them to be sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act. Indian security forces that have engaged in human rights violations should have security assistance rescinded, under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. 

Finally, we urge you to publicly call on the Indian government to honor its commitments to human rights, including calling on Prime Minister Modi and his cabinet to halt the use of anti-terror laws to arbitrarily detain political critics. You can publicly denounce the rising numbers of political prisoners and the weaponization of the rule of law in India to shut down criticism. Even if you are not willing to personally criticize the Prime Minister, you have ample opportunity to criticize the Indian government’s misuse of public trust and public institutions to consolidate power and undermine the will of the Indian people.

As President of the United States of America, you hold a unique position to lead the fight against authoritarianism. Prime Minister Modi will listen to you when you speak. But he and his allies will only change if you take a stand publicly. We urge you to listen to those of us who care about India and ensure that one man cannot steal the futures and the rights of our loved ones in India.

— Signed by countless organizations and individuals leading the charge (linked here).