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Democrats to engage at first congressional debate
Six who want Denhams job to speak tonight
Politics donkey elephant

The 2018 primary election is still over eight months away, but Democrats vying to represent California's 10th Congressional District are already looking to make their voices heard at their first debate this week.

Democratic candidates Michael Barkley, T.J. Cox, Josh Harder, Virginia Madueno, Mateo Morelos Bedolla and Dotty Nygard will all be at the Assyrian American Civic Club in Turlock today. Candidate Lisa Battista has dropped out of the race, according to a statement on her website, and candidate Seth Vaughn did not respond to his invitation, said debate organizer Patrick Kolasinski.

The debate, hosted by the CD10 Democratic Candidates Debate Team, is one of three debates to be held before the California Democratic Party votes to endorse a candidate in January. Though each candidate is looking to prove he or she is worthy of replacing Congressman Jeff Denham and representing District 10 come next November, this early debate is also a chance for voters to begin the difficult process of deciding who to vote for, said Kolasinski.

"These campaigns have a life of their own, and this allows people to get engaged and get connected to candidates for the whole length of that campaign. Often, people look at the list of candidates at the last minute and don't know who to vote for," he said. "For voters, the more times you see someone and hear them speak, the more you get to know them."

Topics covered at the debate will include health care and the economy - specifically, each candidate's strategies for achieving universal health coverage and job creation. Since this is a Democratic debate, Kolasinski expects the candidates to agree on the issues, but differ on the strategies they would use to address them. Future debates in November and December will focus on other topics, he said.

After introductions, the main debate will feature a series of question rounds, where two candidates will be called up at a time and asked one question, with both candidates receiving time to answer as well as rebuttal their opponent's response. Each question round will feature a different topic, and each candidate will participate in each round. There will be at least three, and possibly four, rounds of questions, depending on time.

In a letter addressed to the candidates, Kolasinski explained that many groups, voters and District 10 constituents have expressed their concern to the debate planning team that a competitive, aggressive debate would be counterproductive to the one goal that each candidate shares: unseating Denham.

"We share those concerns," wrote Kolasinski. "The debate is a ‘friendly' debate and is a great opportunity for local voters, CDP delegates and other members of the community to meet you and hear your message."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is looking to unseat over 60 Republicans next year - seven of whom are Californians, including Denham. After Denham defeated Democratic challenger Michael Eggman last year, despite an excess of funding from the DCCC, the committee has refocused its efforts on California's 10th District, naming it as one of the seven Republican-held areas in the state that they plan to target.

The first Democratic debate will be held at 6 p.m. tonight at the Assyrian American Civic Club, 2618 N. Golden State Blvd. The doors will open at 6 p.m., and the debate will start at 7 p.m. The debate is free and open to the public, and is expected to last about two hours.

Denham first won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, representing California's 19th congressional district for one term before redistricting led him to run in the 10th district in 2012.

A Republican, Denham lives in Turlock with his wife.