Hillary Clinton’s campaign said on Monday that she will not participate in a California debate against Bernie Sanders before the state’s primary on June 7.
The two campaigns had agreed to additional debates beyond the slate of events that had been scheduled by the Democratic National Committee. The Sanders campaign had hoped to schedule a final debate in California and Fox News had agreed to host in San Francisco.
In a statement, Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri confirmed that they do not intend to participate. Instead, Palmieri indicated that Clinton would prefer to instead continue her pivot to the general election fight against Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee.
"We have declined Fox News' invitation to participate in a debate in California,” Palmieri said. “As we have said previously, we plan to compete hard in the remaining primary states, particularly California, while turning our attention to the threat a Donald Trump presidency poses.”
“We believe that Hillary Clinton's time is best spent campaigning and meeting directly with voters across California and preparing for a general election campaign that will ensure the White House remains in Democratic hands,” she added.
Most recently, in an interview that aired on Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Clinton said she hadn’t thought about a potential debate with Sanders.
Fox News’ Vice President and Washington Managing Editor Bill Sammon expressed disappointment that Clinton had backed out of the event.
“Naturally, Fox News is disappointed that Secretary Clinton has declined our debate invitation, especially given that the race is still contested and she had previously agreed to a final debate before the California primary,” Sammon said.
Sanders had hoped for an additional debate in a state that he hopes will give him a big boost in delegates ahead of the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in July.
In a statement, Sanders said he was “disappointed” though not surprised that Clinton declined the debate invitation.
“The state of California and the United States face some enormous crises,” Sanders said. “Democracy, and respect for the voters of California, would suggest that there should be a vigorous debate in which the voters may determine whose ideas they support.”
Sanders added that he hoped Clinton would reconsider and cautioned her on assuming the Democratic nomination before voters had their say.
"I also would suggest that Secretary Clinton may want to be not quite so presumptuous about thinking that she is a certain winner,” Sanders added. “In the last several weeks, the people of Indiana, West Virginia and Oregon have suggested otherwise."
The Republican National Committee noted that Clinton had said in 2008 that candidates should be “willing to debate anytime, anywhere.”
A new poll released on Monday by KABC in Los Angeles showed Clinton widening her lead in the state over Sanders. According to the survey, Clinton leads the Vermont senator 57 to 39 percent.