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Democratic Candidates Are Sparring Over Unsanctioned Debate

Democratic Presidential Candidates Hold First Debate In Las VegasDemocratic Presidential Candidates Hold First Debate In Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton take part in the first presidential debate at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photograph by Joe Raedle—Getty Images

An unsanctioned debate is sowing confusion among Democratic primary candidates.

On Wednesday, candidate Hillary Clinton called for Bernie Sanders to join her in attending a debate that the Democratic National Committee has not approved. Speaking on MSNBC’s Hardball, Clinton said she also wanted the DNC to approve the debate, which was proposed by MSNBC and the New Hampshire Union Leader Tuesday afternoon.

The night before, Sanders’ campaign manager had said Sanders did not plan to participate in the debate, adding, “we would not want to jeopardize our ability to participate in future debates.” The DNC has sanctioned six debates, and an exclusivity clause means that participating in unsanctioned events could disqualify candidates from DNC debates. The Sanders campaign said it would take a different stance on the Feb. 4 debate if the DNC signed off on it.

The unsanctioned debate comes amid Democratic voters’ dissatisfaction with the current schedule, which has featured infrequent debates at odd hours. Last week, Stephen Colbert joked that the DNC was “going to show the next Democratic debate after the closing credits of the Fantastic Four.”

But after MSNBC and the Times Union announced their proposed debate, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz issued a statement saying the committee has “no plans to sanction any further debates before the upcoming First in the Nation caucuses and primary.”

The proposed debate is an attempt to give voters more time to hear the candidates out, Trent Spiner, the Union Leader’s executive editor told The Hill. “People are saying to me, ‘We need another debate.’ We feel like it’s our job as a statewide newspaper to give the information that people need,” he said.