Tom Perez. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez told the New York Times that while he hears 2020 candidates' frustrations over the qualification criteria for primary debates, he believes everything the committee has done has been "completely fair and transparent."

Driving the news: Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who failed to qualify for the December debate, circulated a letter over the weekend urging the DNC to lower its debate qualifications for the January and February debates. Nine candidates have signed the letter, including the seven who qualified to appear on stage Thursday.

  • Booker has sought to bring attention to the fact that the December stage — with the exception of entrepreneur Andrew Yang — will be entirely white. Booker and former governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick are the only two black candidates left in the race, following Sen. Kamala Harris' (D-Calif.) exit earlier this month.
  • The letter requests that the DNC use either polling or fundraising thresholds as a debate qualification. Both are currently required, with December's thresholds set at 200,000 individual donors and 4% support in four qualifying national polls, or 6% support in two early-state polls.
  • Perez has already decided the January debate will continue to require both thresholds and reiterated that decision to the Times: "I’m a huge fan of Cory Booker. I think the world of him. ... And if voters are disappointed that he hasn’t qualified, then when they answer the phone, they need to express their preference for Cory Booker.”

The push for lower qualifications also comes the same week as a coordinated effort from all seven Democrats to boycott the December debate if an ongoing union dispute at the venue, Loyola Marymount University, is not resolved.

  • Perez, who beat out now-candidate Pete Buttigieg in the 2017 race to become DNC chair, told the Times he does not intend to serve for long in the thankless role: "I will be a one-term DNC chair. Ask my wife."

Go deeper: DNC announces next four Democratic debates

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Biden releases 2019 tax returns ahead of debate

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden's campaign released his 2019 tax returns on Tuesday, showing that he and his wife, Jill, paid nearly $300,000 in federal taxes last year.

Why it matters: The release, timed just hours before the first presidential debate, comes days after a bombshell New York Times report said that President Trump paid only $750 in federal taxes in 2016 and 2017. Biden's team is hoping to make the tax contrast a sticking point during their showdown.

Updated 34 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 33,443,701 — Total deaths: 1,003,337 — Total recoveries: 23,200,183Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 7,159,222 — Total deaths: 205,345 — Total recoveries: 2,794,608 — Total tests: 102,342,416Map.
  3. Health: Americans won't take Trump's word on the vaccine, Axios-Ipsos poll finds.
  4. States: NYC's coronavirus positivity rate spikes to highest since June.
  5. Sports: Tennessee Titans close facility amid NFL's first coronavirus outbreak.
  6. World: U.K. beats previous record for new coronavirus cases.

NYC's coronavirus positivity rate spikes to highest since June

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

New York City's coronavirus positivity rate has ticked up to 3.25%, its highest since June, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The jump — from 1.93% on Monday — came on the first day that public elementary classrooms reopened in the city after months of closures, but guidelines state that all public schools will have to shut if the citywide seven-day positivity rate stays above 3%.