NEW YORK -- The Democratic National Committee announced Thursday the schedule for its six primary debates, along with their network sponsors. The first contest, produced by CNN, will take place Oct. 13 in Nevada.
DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in a post on Medium, said the "six debates will highlight the stark differences between Democrats and Republicans, and help ensure that whoever caucus goers and voters choose as the Democratic nominee will become the 45th President of the United States."
The DNC has taking tighter control of the process this cycle, after the number of debates ballooned to around two dozen in 2008. President Barack Obama didn't face any primary challengers in 2012.
Some 2o16 candidates aren't happy about having fewer debates, with the presumption that having fewer contests will favor the widely known front-runner, Hillary Clinton.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent a letter in June to Wasserman Schultz calling for more debates, perhaps even with Republicans, after the DNC announced there would be six.
On Wednesday in Iowa, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley blasted the "small cabal" of Democratic leaders in Washington in charge of the process.
The O'Malley campaign took aim at the DNC after the schedule was announced.
“By inserting themselves into the debate process, the DNC has ironically made it less democratic. The schedule they have proposed does not give voters -- nationally, and especially in early states -- ample opportunity to hear from the Democratic candidates for President," Senior Strategist Bill Hyers said in a statement. "If anything, it seems geared toward limiting debate and facilitating a coronation, not promoting a robust debate and primary process."
Hyers added that the DNC should remove itself from the debate process, "rather than giving the appearance of rigging the process and cutting off debate."
Wasserman Schultz said in the Medium post that all five Democratic candidates were briefed on the plans and "agreed to participate in the DNC sanctioned debate process."
Candidates need to receive at least 1 percent in three national polls to be eligible for the debates. If they agree to appear in the sanctioned Democratic debates, they cannot take part in unsanctioned debates. Candidates can appear in forums in which they speak directly to a moderator or audience, but do not engage one another.
The Republican National Committee has also shown a firmer hand this election cycle. The GOP has scheduled nine debates -- versus 20 four years ago -- and is threatening to punish candidates who take part in unsanctioned debates. The RNC announced its schedule in January, with the first debate taking place Thursday night in Cleveland, hosted by Fox News.
Fox News, however, is not among the six networks to land a Democratic debate.
The debate schedule is as follows:
October 13 – CNN – Nevada
November 14 – CBS/KCCI/Des Moines Register – Des Moines, Iowa
December 19 – ABC/WMUR – Manchester, New Hampshire
January 17 – NBC/Congressional Black Caucus Institute – Charleston, South Carolina
February or March – Univision/Washington Post – Miami, Florida
February or March – PBS – Wisconsin