Democrats Interrupt Party Chair to Demand More Presidential Debates

Chants of “more debates!” ring out at the New Hampshire Democratic Party convention.

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaks onstage at the FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit on October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for FORTUNE

Activists repeatedly interrupted Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the nation's first primary state on Saturday to demand that she add more presidential debates to the party’s schedule.

Chants of “more debates!” and “we want debates!” rang out from many of the estimated 4,000 people gathered at the New Hampshire Democratic Party convention in Manchester.

Wasserman Schultz tried to press on amid the interruptions, though she did show some frustration. “My friends, what’s more important, drawing a contrast with Republicans or arguing about debates?” she asked the crowd, which kept shouting.

“Let’s focus on our mission and on our task at hand. Enough is enough,” she added before returning to an attack on billionaire Republican candidate Donald Trump that she’d begun before she was interrupted.

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Wasserman Schultz has insisted she will cap the schedule at six debates during the nominating process and will bar candidates who participate in non-sanctioned debates from participating in the party’s own events. “We're having six debates—period,” she told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast last week. “We're not changing the process.”

Supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent seeking the Democratic Party's nomination, led the cheers, but supporters of former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and even of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is seen by the other candidates as the least receptive to more debates, also joined in.

Lesser-known candidates stand to benefit from more airtime alongside top contenders in a nationally televised debate, and O'Malley, who polls behind Clinton and Sanders, has been leading the call for an expanded calendar. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday said she supported the cause, though said the 2008 schedule of 26 debates was too many, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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