On Thursday night, 10 Democratic presidential candidates debated issues of climate change, healthcare, and criminal justice reform on stage in Houston. Candidates like former Texas rep. Beto O’Rourke stood out among heated discussions of gun control; others, like former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, failed to garner the right kind of attention. Below you’ll find several moments that mattered from last night’s debate, including one tense exchange between former Vice President Joe Biden and Castro over a moment of supposed failed memory.
Andrew Yang offers $1,000 a month to 10 families for a year
During his opening statement, Yang thought the debate stage would be an ideal opportunity to announce a contest; he is offering $1,000 a month—his proposed Freedom Dividend—to ten families for a year if they go to his website and explain why they’re deserving of the prize. “This is how we will get out country working for us again, the American people,” Yang says.
Up next, Pete Buttigieg stutters before beginning his opening statement and motioning to Yang. “It’s original, I’ll give you that.”
Joe Biden debates Julian Castro over his healthcare plan
While debating Joe Biden’s healthcare plan—a Medicare for choice plan—Castro criticizes his strategy to have people “buy into” enrollment, arguing that under Obama’s administration, this type of system left 10 million people without insurance. When Biden later clarifies by stating that Americans would not have to opt into enrollment, Castro goes for blood. “You just said that. You just said that two minutes ago. You just two minutes ago that they would have to buy in.”
So who’s right here? Technically, Castro is correct in one sense; yes, Biden used the words “buy in”—but he also mentioned it as an “automatic” process. Either way, Castro’s apparent jab at Biden’s memory has turned into a major post-debate talking point.
Beto O’Rourke talks gun control
During the debate, O’Rourke discusses a subject that’s been top of mind for many Democratic voters: gun control. Instead of a voluntary buyback that several other candidates have proposed, O’Rourke proposes total confiscation of some assault weapons.
“We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore,” he says. Several candidates, including Castro, Sanders, and Klobuchar, use the opportunity to commend O’Rourke’s efforts in the wake of the El Paso shooting.
Kamala Harris responds to criticism of her criminal justice record
Earlier this week, and months after several other candidates’ plans had already been made public, Harris released a plan to reform criminal justice in America, including “significant” federal investments in policies that would end mass incarceration. Harris has been criticized in the past for her contradictory stances; she previously opposed the legalization of marijuana and outside investigations of police shootings but has recently changed her views. When asked why she hadn’t made real change when given power, she gives a shaky answer, arguing that representations of her views have been “distorted.”
“Let me be very clear. I made a decision to become a prosecutor for two reasons,” she says. “One, I’ve always wanted to protect people and keep them safe. And second, I was born knowing about how this criminal justice system in America has worked in a way that has been informed by racial bias.” Harris neglects to explain how her views have been distorted and doesn’t address her contradictory stances.
Buttigieg discusses his coming out experience
Towards the end of the debate, candidates are asked about their greatest professional setbacks. Very few of the candidates answered the question, but Buttigieg is refreshingly honest in his response, at least.
“You know, as a military officer serving under ‘don’t ask/don’t tell’ and as an elected official in the state of Indiana when Mike Pence was governor, at a certain point, when it came to professional setbacks, I had to wonder whether just acknowledging who I was, was going to be the ultimate career-ending professional setback,” he says. “… What happened was that, when I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them, they decided to trust me and re-elected me with 80 percent of the vote.”
Warren (on teachers’ unions): “You know, I think I’m the only person on this stage who has been a public school teacher. I had wanted to be a public school teacher since I was in second grade. And let’s be clear in all the ways we talk about this, money for public schools should stay in public schools, not go anywhere else. I’ve already made my commitment. I will—we will have a secretary of education who has been a public school teacher.”
Harris (on trade relations with China): “Donald Trump in office on trade policy, you know, he reminds me of that guy in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ you know, when you pull back the curtain, it’s a really small dude?”