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For Fourth Democratic Debate, Candidates Will Head to Otterbein Campus

September 17, 2019, 2:54 PM UTC

Shortly after their last debate at Texas Southern University, White House candidates learned they are going back to school for the fourth Democratic debate in October.

At least 11 Democratic candidates will spar onstage at Otterbein University, a private, liberal arts campus of 2,500 students in Westerville, Ohio, a city of 36,000 15 miles north of Columbus.  

The fourth debate will take place October 15 and maybe October 16, if the Democratic National Committee views the number of candidates as too unwieldy for one night. The debate will be hosted by CNN and The New York Times

The 10 Democratic candidates who debated on September 12 have qualified for the fourth debate. They are: frontrunner and former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, entrepreneur Andrew Yang of New York, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, U.S. Sen Cory Booker of New Jersey, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and former U.S. housing secretary Julián Castro. They will be joined by California billionaire and philanthropist Tom Steyer. 

Candidates must be polling at 2% or more and must have received contributions from 130,000 unique donors and 400 donors per state in order to take the stage at Otterbein for the fourth debate.

The school was founded in 1847 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ and is known for being one of the first in the country to admit women and people of color. In years past, its students took part in the abolitionist and suffragist movements. Today, Otterbein is ranked as 20th in the Midwest by the U.S. News and World Report “America’s Best Colleges” edition. It is known for the quality of education and its affordability. 

The DNC did not respond to an emailed question as to why it picked the 140-acre Otterbein campus as the site of the next Democratic debate, but university President John Comerford offered his own ideas.

“When CNN was shopping for locations, we think we impressed them with our facilities, with the ability of our staff to meet all their needs and this remarkable community on campus and in Westerville,” Comerford said. 

Ohio is known as a swing state, crucial to national elections, and it went for President Donald Trump in 2016. Comerford said the debate will give the campus surrounding community a chance to see the political process up close.

“What a cool educational opportunity to be this close to presidential politics and to see our democracy in action,” the college president said. “It’s ridiculous how big of a deal this is for Otterbein, Westerville and all of central Ohio. Every leader I’ve talked to has been excited from every party.”

The fourth Democratic debate marks a political departure for Otterbein.

GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Bob Dole have all spoken there, in 2012, 2008 and 1996, respectively. Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, delivered his final state of the state address at the campus last year.

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