Hartford Foundation Commits $1 Million for Potential 2020 Presidential Debate in Hartford

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has committed $1 Million to the Debate 2020 Local Organizing Committee to secure the selection of the City of Hartford as a site for the 2020 Presidential Debate. The Foundation’s Board of Directors approved the allocation of funds to ensure inclusive civic engagement events and activities related to the debate. Hartford is among the six U.S. cities that are finalists to host one of the four Presidential and Vice Presidential debates that will take place in October 2020.  If Hartford is selected, the City and the region will garner an extraordinary level of national and international public and media attention. 

“We believe that our financial resources and community leadership can maximize this critical moment to model truly inclusive and respectful civic education and engagement around the issues and challenges that will be front and center of the 2020 presidential campaign”, says Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams. “The Hartford Foundation has an opportunity to lead debate-related activities in the year preceding the October 2020 event.  Taking on this role advances the Foundation’s goal to achieve greater racial, geographic and economic inclusion. Working alongside regional partners in the public sector and the business community, we plan to shed light on the effective solutions demonstrated by our grantees and the urgency to eliminate the persistent disparities that resonate in communities in our region and across the country.”  

The debates are produced by the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debate (CPD), established in 1987 as a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) corporation to ensure that general election debates among the leading candidates for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States are a permanent part of the electoral process. CPD is not controlled by any political party or outside organization and it does not endorse, support, or oppose political candidates. 

The decision to commit the funds came after a rigorous and deliberative process. “This is an important step for the Hartford Foundation and philanthropy as an industry to lead an effort as vital as a Presidential Debate”, says Hartford Foundation Board Chair JoAnn Price. A significant portion of the Foundation’s financial commitment has been earmarked for inclusive community and civic engagement. Anticipated events and activities that Hartford Foundation funds would support include:

  • Priority distribution of free civics educational resources in English and Spanish for teachers and students in schools across greater Hartford, and nonprofit organizations serving Hartford youth.  
  • Get Out The Vote and Census work
  • Community-wide, facilitated issue forums on election topics.
  • Vendor directory to support the Debate activity and attendees that prioritizes Hartford business and entrepreneurial enterprises owned by women and Black and Latinx residents.
  • Priority paid internships to work on Debate activity and tickets to attend the debate at event site for Hartford youth.

If Hartford is selected, a local organizing committee will be formed to complete the tasks outlined by the CPD to successfully execute a debate and engage the community.  An Executive Committee, comprised of a Chairperson, the City of Hartford Mayor and top funders will also be formed to oversee the organizing committee as it carries out day-to-day event logistics, coordinates with the CPD, and organizes community outreach. The local organizing committee has asked Foundation President Jay Williams to serve as Chair of the Executive Committee, to lead the vision for a respectful, inclusive and youth-focused community debate and related activities.

The decision of final site locations for the Debate will be made by the CPD in October of 2019, and the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates will take place in October 2020.