Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) announced he was running for president, bringing the number of noteworthy declared Democratic candidates to 25. This figure includes current or former elected officials and public figures. The former two-term congressman, who served 31 years in the Navy before retiring as a three-star admiral, said his priority would be addressing climate change and countering Russia and China on the international stage.
Sestak’s announcement makes him the first noteworthy Democratic candidate to launch a presidential bid in over a month—New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) launched his campaign on May 16. According to Federal Election Commission records, 259 Democrats have so far filed to run for president in 2020.
Sestak’s campaign launch is not late by historical standards. In 2015, 16 noteworthy major-party candidates had launched presidential campaigns as of June 23—12 Republicans and four Democrats. Seven more noteworthy candidates—Bobby Jindal (R), Chris Christie (R), Jim Webb (D), Scott Walker (R), John Kasich (R), Jim Gilmore (R), and Lawrence Lessig (D)—launched their 2016 campaigns after that date.
Then-Vice President Joe Biden (D), who was frequently mentioned as a potential candidate, did not rule out a bid until October 21, 2015.
Of the past five successful presidential candidates, both Donald Trump (R) and George W. Bush (R) launched their campaigns in June before the election year. George H.W. Bush (R) and Bill Clinton (D) launched their campaigns later, with both doing so in October in the year before the election. Of the last five presidents, only Barack Obama (D) launched his campaign prior to June before the election year, having done so in February 2007.
The debates this week, which will be held in Miami, are the first of 12 sets of debates planned ahead of the 2020 Democratic convention.