DNC chair heckled with calls for more debates

Calls for more Democratic presidential primary debates grew so loud at a party convention in New Hampshire Saturday that the party’s chairwoman had to raise her voice during her opening remarks and break from her speech to shout back at attendees.

Chants of “More debates” and “We want more debates” — as well as some boos — greeted Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz when she took the stage at the New Hampshire Democratic Party convention in Manchester. Although she largely stuck to her scripted remarks, which focused on how the party can retain the White House next year, she paused at one point to respond to the protesters.

“What’s more important, drawing a contrast with Republicans, or arguing about debates?” she asked. “Let’s focus on our mission at hand. Let’s focus on our task at hand.”

She added: “You know better than anyone that this race can’t be won from a stage or through a television screen. You want to see these candidates in your living rooms, in coffee shops, and at forums just like the one we’re having here today.”

Many of the protesters wore shirts backing Bernie Sanders, and several waved yellow and orange signs calling for more debates.

Most of the chants came from the non-delegate section — an area set aside for people who paid to attend but are not delegates to the convention.

Several attendees told CNN that more debates would give candidates more opportunities to speak about issues.

“The Republicans are getting all the press right now and we have more than one candidate,” said Jane Schirch, of Londonderry, who hasn’t yet selected a candidate to support. “We have more legitimate candidates than the entertainment that the Republicans are providing.”

And Mary Ann Rogers, a Bernie Sanders backer from Manchester, said more debates would give voters more time to decide.

“Instead of it being a circus of zingers and one-liners, we’ll hopefully have a stage of people who want to be respectful of each other and really want to discuss the issues,” Rogers said. “So if there aren’t enough debates, there’s not enough time to decide. It’s too important an election to just leave it to chance.”

Currently, the party has scheduled six debates. But many Democrats have criticized the decision to not hold more events, saying it favors party front-runner Hillary Clinton, and several party leaders, including top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi, have called for more debates.

Clinton told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer earlier this week that she would be open to more debates.

“I am ready and willing, no matter what they decide, to show up and be there,” Clinton said Thursday.

Speaking at the event later Saturday, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — the loudest Democratic voice clamoring for more debates — said the party was not answering claims made at the first two GOP contests by front-runner Donald Trump and other Republican candidates.

“Over the last four weeks, we have witnessed not one, but two, unanswered rounds of nationally televised Republican presidential debates led by that racist, anti-immigrant, carnival barker, Donald Trump,” he said.

He added, “Our country is doing better, and that is the good news these unanswered Republican debates are keeping the American people from hearing.”