The race to the White House is on. At one point, there were 26 major Democratic elected officials or public figures in the ring to compete for the nation’s top office. The list has now begun to decrease, as eight major candidates have ended their campaigns (Eric Swalwell, John Hickenlooper, Mike Gravel, Seth Moulton, Jay Inslee, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bill de Blasio, and Beto O'Rourke).
With caucuses and primaries a few short months away, we are also in the heat of debate season. The clear Democratic front-runners are Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but a shortlist of viable contenders remain; most recently, the remaining Democratic nominees held their third and fourth debates in Houston in September and Ohio in October, respectively.
The RNC, on the other hand, has yet to hold an officially sanctioned primary debate. Though only three plan to challenge President Donald Trump—Joe Walsh, Bill Weld, and Mark Sanford—the incumbent said he would not debate them. Trump told reporters in September his opponents’ bids are nothing more than “a publicity stunt,” and added, “To be honest, I’m not looking to give them any credibility.”
Stacker researched the major candidates, organized here in alphabetical order by last name. While some have varied political histories and military experience, others like candidate Marianne Williamson have no political experience at all (she’s made her name as a self-help guru). Trump is running on a campaign promise to “Keep America Great” while other presidential candidates have positioned their campaigns around issues such as health care, minimum wage, gun control, LGBTQ+ rights, college tuition, and the Green New Deal.
Read on to find out more about the candidates vying for U.S. president in the 2020 General Election to be held Nov. 3. Please note this story will be continually updated as candidates join or drop out of the race.
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Michael Bennet, a U.S. senator from Colorado, announced his 2020 presidential campaign on "CBS This Morning," May 2, 2019. Bennet has said the two biggest challenges facing the U.S. include "the lack of economic mobility and opportunity for most Americans" and "the need to restore integrity to our government.” He once worked under another candidate running in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary: Bennet was the chief of staff to then-mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper.
While Bennet, who is married with three children, planned to announce his presidential bid earlier in the year, he was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer, requiring him to put the announcement on hold. “I don’t want to be hysterical, but if it was left in me undetected, it could kill me,” Bennet told journalist Mike Littwin. “It won’t because I have insurance and decent medical care. The idea that the richest country in the world hasn’t figured out how to have universal health care is beyond embarrassing. It’s devastating.”
The 47th vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, announced his bid for president in a video on Thursday, April 25, 2019. His message focused on President Trump’s highly criticized response to the deadly 2017 Charlottesville white nationalist riots, saying that America is in a ”battle for the soul of this nation.”
On his campaign website, Biden shares his vision for the U.S.: to rebuild the middle class, to include everyone in this country’s democracy, and to demonstrate leadership on a global level. "I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are, and I cannot stand by and watch that happen."
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker has made a name for himself since serving as the 36th mayor of Newark between 2006 and 2013. The Stanford and Yale University graduate (and Oxford Rhodes Scholar) fought back against slumlords rather than partner with a law firm upon graduation.
As the first African American U.S. senator from New Jersey, Booker is also famed for shoveling a constituent out of a snow-filled driveway, rescuing a woman from a house fire, and saving dogs from the freezing weather. Unmarried with no children, Booker—whose key issues include affordable housing and criminal justice reform—remains untouched by scandal since announcing his bid for the presidency in February 2019.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock officially announced his bid for 2020 president in a video called, "Fair Shot," in which he states: "As a Democratic governor of a state that Trump won by 20 points, I don’t have the luxury of just talking to people who agree with me." He calls the coming election "the fight of our time," and "the fight of [his] career," referring to the defeat of President Donald Trump.
With a red-state perspective in his back pocket, Bullock aims to help Americans create better lives than those of the generations that came before them. Married with three children, the Montana governor was born in Missoula, and raised by a single mom in Helena. He attended Claremont McKenna College in California for his undergrad and received his law degree from New York's Columbia Law School.
Mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg (pronounced "Boot-edge-edge") is already making noise since his January announcement of his Democratic bid. His recent remarks against Vice President Mike Pence regarding same-sex marriage have gained the Harvard University graduate recent press.
Buttigieg, who is openly gay and recently married, supports the Equality Act: a bill that if passed would amend the Civil Rights Act to disbar discrimination based on sex. Buttigieg is also recognized for leaving his mayoral post for seven months in 2014 to serve a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve in the Afghanistan war. Buttigieg supports several critical issues including climate change and universal health care.
Former San Antonio mayor and Democrat Julian Castro has been throwing anti-Trump, anti-border wall rallies in the city since announcing his presidential bid in January 2019. Key political issues for the native Texan include free trade, universal health care, and renewable energy.
Castro, who was the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2014 to 2017, shares political influence with his twin brother, Joaquin Castro, who is a U.S. House representative. Castro is married with two children.
Current two-term New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio entered the group of 2020 presidential primary hopefuls May 16 in a video announcement, in which he calls President Donald Trump a "bully" and a "con artist." Pointing to his success with policy changes, such as a $15 minimum wage and universal pre-K, de Blasio says, "I know we can do it," he said, "because I've done it here in the largest, toughest city in this country." A Quinnipiac University poll published April 3 found 76% of New Yorkers do not think de Blasio should run.
UPDATE: Mayor de Blasio dropped his bid for the Democratic nomination. "I feel like I have contributed all I can to this primary election, and it’s clearly not my time, so I’m going to end my presidential campaign," said de Blasio in a Sept. 20 interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Former Maryland U.S. Rep. John Delaney has been eyeing the 2020 presidency for some time. He was the first Democrat to announce his bid in 2017, refusing to run for Congress again in 2018 so he could campaign for the U.S. commander in chief post. Branding himself as a “different kind of Democrat,” the Columbia University and Georgetown University Law Center graduate supports fighting climate change, universal health care, and economic opportunity.
Speaking of economics, when Delaney's first company was listed on the stock exchange, he was the youngest CEO of a publicly traded company. Delaney is married with four children and worth $93 million, according to the 2018 Roll Call Wealth of Congress.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard serves Hawaii's second congressional district and was the youngest woman to be elected in the U.S. state legislature in 2002 when she was just 21. Since announcing her presidential bid in January, Gabbard—an avid surfer and athlete—has proposed decriminalizing marijuana while also campaigning on the Medicare for All platform.
She suggests on her website that “when we stand united in a spirit of aloha, motivated by our respect and compassion for each other and love for our country, we can overcome any challenge before us.” She is married with no children.
Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand attended Dartmouth College and the UCLA School of Law and has served in New York since 2009. Since serving as U.S. House representative from 2007 to 2009, Gillibrand, who announced her presidential bid in March 2019, has moved up the political ladder and remains the ranking Democrat member on two Senate subcommittees.
She supports campaign finance reform, affordable childcare, and some form of universal health care. Though not involved in any personal scandal herself, Gillibrand did suggest President Bill Clinton should have resigned after the Monica Lewinsky affair was made public. She is married with two children.
UPDATE: Gillibrand ended her bid for the presidency on Aug. 28.
Former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska has jumped into the presidential ring with one caveat: that he will withdraw his nomination following the debates. To get that far, however, Gravel will need 65,000 donors—the requirement to make it to the debate stage. If Gravel doesn't hit that mark, he has vowed to donate all leftover funds to Flint, Mich., to help the city secure clean water for its residents.
His decision to enter the race at all came from the urging of a group of teenaged democratic socialists whose sole purpose of running Gravel is to coerce Democratic candidates into more left-leaning positions.
UPDATE: Gravel ended his bid for 2020 president on Aug. 6, and endorsed Bernie Sanders.
California Sen. Kamala Harris announced her bid for the presidency in January 2019, joining five other women who are vying for the post. The former Attorney General of California and District Attorney of San Francisco (who has an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Howard University) is sister to MSNBC political analyst Maya Harris. She strongly supports gun control, net neutrality, and Medicare for All.
Harris' first book, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” was released in January. “My whole life, I've only had one client: the people,” Kamala said during her launch speech in Oakland. She is married with no children.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper exited office in 2019 after serving since 2011 in order to announce his presidential bid. The former mayor of Denver (and brewpub owner) graduated from Wesleyan University and supports expanding Medicaid and providing more affordable health care and education reform.
Hickenlooper was arrested three decades ago for driving while impaired, according to the National Review (which also reported on 22 other interesting tidbits about Hickenlooper, including the fact that he wrote an unsolicited screenplay for the 1980s ABC's series "Moonlighting"). The governor today is under investigation by the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission for allegedly accepting travel and gifts when he was governor. He is married with one child.
UPDATE: Hickenlooper ended his bid for 2020 president on Aug. 15, and is considering a Senate run.
Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee has been in the state's top office since 2013. As a former U.S. representative from 1993 to 1995 and 1999 to 2012, climate change remains one of his top issues. Inslee, a graduate of Washington State University and Willamette University College of Law, also supports the increased minimum wage, universal health care, and decriminalizing marijuana.
The fifth-generation Washingtonian and lawyer, who announced his presidential bid in March 2019, rose to recognition in Washington v. Trump, which prevented President Donald Trump's travel ban on seven Muslim countries. He is married with three children.
UPDATE: Gov. Inslee announced the suspension of his 2020 presidential campaign on Aug. 21, telling MSNBC's Rachel Maddow: "It's become clear I'm not going to be carrying the ball—I'm not going to be president, so I'm withdrawing tonight from the race."
As a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, former Hennepin County attorney and Yale graduate Amy Klobuchar has been a U.S. senator since 2007. As the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee, she recently unveiled a trillion-dollar plan aimed at infrastructure while backing the Green New Deal.
Though both the New York Times and the New Yorker suggested she could be president, Klobuchar came under fire shortly before announcing her candidacy in February 2019 when several former staffers anonymously accused her of being verbally abusive to her employees. She is married with one child.
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Mayor Wayne Messam has governed Miramar, Fla., since 2015. The construction company owner announced his bid for the presidency in March 2019 on the platform “Restoring the American Dream” and is focused on gun control and environmental issues, as well as universal health care.
Messam has had name recognition in his home state since playing wide receiver for Florida State University in the early '90s when he was a member of the 1993 national championship team. He faces an uphill battle, as no sitting mayor has ever been elected president. He is married with three children.
Massachusets. Rep. Seth Moulton declared his candidacy Monday, April 22. The Harvard graduate is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served four tours of duty in Iraq from 2003 through 2008. Moulton was sworn into Congress in 2015 and is married with one child. He is the 19th Democrat to announce a presidential run.
UPDATE: Rep. Moulton dropped his bid for president on Aug. 23.
Former punk rocker and businessman Beto O'Rourke burst onto the scene in 2018 by challenging, and nearly defeating, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the Texas midterm elections. O'Rourke, who lost by 3 percentage points, served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and is a champion for LGBT rights and the legalization of cannabis.
The Columbia University graduate announced his bid for president in March with the slogan “All people, no PACs” and has been a harsh opponent to President Donald Trump, comparing his stance on immigration to that of Nazi Germany. He is married with three children.
UPDATE: O'Rourke announced he was dropping his bid for 2020 president on Nov. 1. He tweeted: “Our campaign has always been about seeing clearly, speaking honestly, and acting decisively. In that spirit: I am announcing that my service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee.”
Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan joined Congress when he was 29 years old. He entered the presidential race in April 2019. Having positioned himself as a voice for the Midwest's blue-collar voters, Ryan's key issues include unions rights and workforce development, enforcing or renegotiating trade deals, and bringing the hammer down on Chinese currency manipulation.
Ryan was once opposed to abortion, but since 2015 has supported a woman's "personal choice." He is married with three children.
UPDATE: Ryan dropped out of the presidential race on Oct. 24. He said in a video, "After seven long months of hard work I will be returning home to my family and friends and community in Ohio to run for reelection for my congressional seat."
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has served as an Independent in the Senate since assuming office in 2007. He'll run as Democrat in the 2020 election, just as he did in 2016 when he narrowly lost the primary to Hillary Clinton. Sanders has worked in Washington D.C. since 1991 when he was elected to the House of Representatives.
The University of Chicago graduate and married father of four currently serves as the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and recently joined with 14 Senate colleagues to introduce legislation to promote Medicare for All. Sanders' platform also includes increasing the minimum wage, closing the wealth gap, and reducing student loan debt.
Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) announced his bid in September. Sanford wants to not only repeal Obamacare, but also overhaul and replace it. On immigration, he aligns with Trump as a staunch supporter of a border wall. On the climate, he is a bit murky; he recognizes the imminent dangers of climate change but opposes joining agreements with other nations. Sanford opposes abortion and supports the Second Amendment and the Defense of Marriage Act.
Joe Sestak announced his campaign for 2020 president on his website on June 22, 2019, saying: “What Americans most want today is someone who is accountable to them, above self, above party, above any special interest … a president who has the depth of global experience to restore America’s leadership in the world to protect our American dream at home … and one who is trusted to restructure policies where too many see only the growth of inequity not of the economy."
Former Navy admiral, Sestak acknowledged the fact that his announcement to join the presidential race was slightly delayed, citing his daughter's brain cancer relapse. He attributes her beating the odds twice to his military health care coverage. Sestak, a two-term Pennsylvania congressman, says he served the country as a congressman from a Republican District to help make sure all Americans have health care coverage.
While billionaire activist and investor Tom Steyer said in the past he would not run for 2020 president in order to focus on the impeachment of President Donald Trump, on July 9 he announced he will, in fact, run.
Steyer said in a statement: “The other Democratic candidates for President have many great ideas that will absolutely move our country forward, but we won’t be able to get any of those done until we end the hostile corporate takeover of our democracy." Steyer calls for the end of corporate control in politics.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell is one of the youngest candidates in the Democratic race. The four-term California Congressman—who announced his candidacy on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on April 8—is a proponent of stronger gun control, universal health care, and zero-interest federal student loans.
Swalwell, a University of Maryland graduate, was elected to California's 15th District seat in Congress in 2012—beating a 40-year incumbent in the process. The married father of two has reportedly been eyeing a 2020 run for a few years, making numerous trips to Iowa and New Hampshire since 2017.
UPDATE: The first serious candidate to do so, Swalwell ended his campaign on July 8, writing on his website: "After the first Democratic presidential debate, our polling and fundraising numbers weren’t what we had hoped for, and I no longer see a path forward to the nomination. My presidential campaign ends today, but this also is the start of a new passage for the issues on which our campaign ran."
President Donald Trump needs no introduction as the incumbent 45th president. In his first ever 2016 campaign promise to “Make America Great Again,” he beat out lifetime politician Hillary Clinton. A real estate developer, entrepreneur, and reality TV personality, Trump—who is battling Congress over the building of a wall along the Mexico border—withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement and Iran Nuclear Treaty, and put tariffs on goods from China and Canada.
His presidency has seen its fair share of scandal, from his response to white nationalists in Charlottesville to a number of his aides serving jail time as a result of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He is married with five children.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced she was throwing her hat in the ring in February. The 2009 Bostonian of the Year, former bankruptcy attorney, and past Republican (she changed parties in 1996) graduated from Rutgers University School of Law, is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and supports the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
The ranking Democratic member of the Senate Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection is running on a bold economic platform, arguing $1 trillion in government revenue could be raised with a 7% surtax on the profits of large corporations like Amazon. She also seeks to make public college free while supporting the Medicare for All plan. She is married with two children.
Former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh (R), now a conservative talk show host, is an extreme long shot to win the Republican bid. That he differs from Trump on immigration, supports some form of criminal justice reform, and carries some progressive values won’t exactly help him win over enough of the incumbent’s base. Walsh has strongly opposed ACA, same-sex marriage, and gun control laws, but he disagrees with the ban on transgender troops and supports providing scholarships to low-income students for private school.
A Libertarian for three years, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld rejoined the Republican party in 2019. He served as the Massachusetts District Attorney from 1981 to 1985 before becoming the U.S. assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division under the Reagan administration.
A fiscal conservative who cut taxes multiple times as the governor, Weld opposes President Trump's tariffs on China and Canada. He shifts left from other Republicans on a number of issues, including LGBTQ rights and expanding Medicaid. He is married with five children.
Known as Oprah Winfrey's spiritual advisor, self-help author Marianne Williamson has never held public office. She has penned 13 books, including four #1 New York Times best-sellers. Williamson is a staunch supporter of the Green New Deal, universal health care, and free college tuition, and called for $100 billion to be paid to African Americans as reparations for slavery.
Williamson, who announced her bid for the presidency in January 2019, is also the founder of Project Angel Food, a charity that helps feed people with AIDS and other ailments. She has one child.
Entrepreneur and businessman Andrew Yang was among the first to enter the presidential race in February 2018. Despite having no political background, his announcement garnered some attention surrounding his central campaign theme: creating Universal Basic Income to combat increased automation in the workforce.
“The Freedom Dividend” would give anyone between the ages of 18 and 65 $1,000 per month through a capital gains tax. Yang, who is married with two children, is also the founder of nonprofit Venture for America, for which he was given multiple awards by the Obama administration.