Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will not be debating in California. Clinton's top campaign spokeswoman announced on Monday (23 May) that the likely Democratic nominee had declined an offer to participate in a Fox News debate that was previously agreed to by Sanders.
"As we have said previously, we plan to compete hard in the remaining primary states, particularly California, while turning our attention to the threat a Donald Trump presidency poses," Clinton spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said. "We believe that Hillary Clinton's time is best spend campaigning and meeting directly with voters across California and preparing for a general election campaign that will ensure the White House remains in Democratic hands."
Clinton and Sanders will face off in the Golden State on 7 June as they vie for 475 delegates. The former secretary of state leads the Vermont senator 2,293 delegates to 1,536. Democratic candidates need 2,383 delegates to secure the party's nomination. With the nomination seemingly within her grasp, Clinton has turned most of her attention to a general election fight with presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.
"I will be the nominee for my party," Clinton told CNN earlier in May.
According to CNN, in February Clinton and Sanders agreed to four more debates and have since had three of those four debates. In a statement following Clinton's California debate rejection, Sanders' campaign claimed she had "reneged" on her prior agreement.
"I am disappointed but not surprised by Secretary Clinton's unwillingness to debate before the largest and most important primary in the presidential nominating process," Sanders said. "I also would suggest that Secretary Clinton may want to be not quite so presumptuous about thinking that she is a certain winner. In the last several weeks, the people of Indiana, West Virginia and Oregon have suggested otherwise.
"Democracy, and respect for the voters of California, would suggest that there should be vigorous debate in white the voters may determine whose ideas they support. I hope Secretary Clinton reconsiders her unfortunate decision to back away from her commitment to debate," Sanders added.
Fox News vice president and Washington managing editor, Bill Sammon, said Clinton's decision was unfortunate. "Naturally, Fox News is disappointed that Secretary Clinton has declined our debate invitation," he said, "especially given that the race is still contested and she had previously agreed to a final debate before the California primary."
A poll on Tuesday 23 May by KABC and SurveyUSA shows Clinton soundly defeating Sanders in California, 57% to 39%. The poll also revealed Clinton defeats Trump in the Golden State by nine percentage points, 50% to 41%.