Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) declined CNN's invitation to appear at a climate-focused town hall so that she could reportedly continue to fundraise with some of her campaign's largest donors.
"Senator Kamala Harris' top bundlers are hosting fundraisers for her in Downtown LA and Hancock Park," ABC campaign reporter Zohreen Shah reported on Monday. "Those fundraisers directly conflict with CNN’s Climate Crisis Town Hall, which Harris is not attending."
CNN confirmed earlier in the day that Harris had indeed informed the network that she would not be able to attend, citing scheduling conflicts.
Earlier in the primary season, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) faced mounting pressure from both the party's base and left-wing activists to host debates devoted exclusively to discussing the issue of climate change.
Accordingly, the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led organization advocating for political action to combat climate change, held protests outside of the DNC headquarters urging for a series of climate-focused debates.
While the DNC has not formally ruled on a proposal to move forward with the single-issue forum, CNN took it upon the network to host back-to-back sit-downs with the candidates. The network revealed that eight of the leading Democratic primary challengers have qualified and have subsequently accepted the invitation: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
The remaining Democratic presidential hopefuls still have until August 21 to meet the threshold to qualify for the CNN town hall. In order to nab a spot, a candidate must get at least 2% of the vote in four or more DNC-approved polls.
The Sunrise Movement slammed Harris' decision to prioritize wealthy donors over combating the climate crisis.
"Yikes," the organization’s brand account tweeted in response to the news. "Kamala Harris is skipping the first ever Presidential climate forum to schmooze with big donors."
"Debating our generation’s survival isn't optional," the organization continued. "We need a leader who will prioritize the future of humanity over rubbing elbows with millionaires and billionaires."
Combating climate change has become a leading issue for Democrats going into the 2020 election cycle. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has even centered his campaign on the single-issue. Inslee, however, is unlikely to meet the threshold to qualify to participate in the upcoming CNN town hall.
While Democrats have been sounding the alarm on global warming, the issue has not been a priority for the majority of the American electorate. Only 38% of registered voters say that a candidate's position on climate change is an important factoring in determining who they ultimately vote for in 2020, according to Yale University study.
Moreover, while climate change was shown to be the fourth most important issue for liberal Democrats, it ranked only 15th most important out of 28 different issues presented to all registered voters regardless of party affiliation.