'It's discouraging:' Dem. presidential debate highlights lack of diversity in 2020 race, says local nonprofit

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's crunch time in the 2020 Democratic race and in California, a new front runner has emerged.

According to a new Public Policy Institute of California poll, Bernie Sanders is leading the pack with 27 percent support among likely voters. He's followed by Joe Biden with 24 percent support and Elizabeth Warren with 23 percent support.

Sanders, Biden, and Warren make up half of those taking the debate stage in Iowa on Tuesday night for the seventh Democratic primary debate.

But among the line-up which also includes Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Tom Steyer there's one glaring omission, there are no candidates of color.

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"We started with one of the most diverse groups of candidates running for office," Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, the CEO of the Latino Community Foundation, told ABC7 News. "And tonight we're going to have six white candidates on that stage and only two women."

In recent weeks, Julian Castro and Cory Booker both dropped out of the Democratic race. Andrew Yang didn't meet the polling threshold to qualify for the latest debate, but during the last debate he weighed in on the waning diversity in the field.

"Why am I the lone candidate of color on this stage?" Yang asked. "You know what you need to donate to political campaigns? Disposable income."

Only half the candidates in the race qualified for the latest debate. Yang, Michael Bennet, Michael Bloomberg, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard and Deval Patrick did not.

Garcel says the lack of diversity remaining in the race is discouraging.

RELATED: Democratic debate: Only 6 candidates qualify for 1st face off of 2020

"A lot of candidates of color didn't get the limelight that they needed in order to become a household name, in order to actually increase the support that they needed to actually continue their campaigns," she said. "I think it also reflects the lack of representation in media and how the stories have been told in the candidates that have run."

Garcel also believes a rise in racially charged rhetoric is a factor.

"In our country's history, we're at a point right now where it would have sent a very strong message to white nationalist groups, for example, that we as a country were embracing who we're become-- which is a very diverse country," Garcel said.

ABC News is hosting the next Democratic debate on February 7th. It's the first debate after the first votes are cast in Iowa on February 3rd.
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