Progress Iowa announces speakers for annual holiday party


Newly elected U.S. Reps. Axne & Finkenauer to join national progressive leaders at 6th annual event

The sixth annual Progress Iowa Holiday Party will feature a number of national progressive leaders and potential Presidential candidates delivering keynote addresses, the organization announced today. Newly elected U.S. Reps. Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer will address the crowd, along with Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, U.S. Rep. and Iowa native Eric Swalwell, and entrepreneur and presidential candidate Andrew Yang will all speak at this year’s event, to be held Thursday, December 20th in Des Moines.

In addition, Progress Iowa will present its ‘Progressive Advocate of the Year’ award, and the event will conclude with a live auction to benefit Progress Iowa, with personal items donated from each of the keynote speakers. Included in the auction will be a “Make Earth Cool Again” hat provided and signed by Senator Merkley, a South Bend Pocket Watch provided by Mayor Buttigieg, and a signed basketball and copy of the book “The War on Normal People” provided by Andrew Yang. The live auction has become a tradition at the Progress Iowa Holiday Party, with speakers such as Wendy Davis donating a signed pair of sneakers, and Brian Schweitzer donating a bolo tie in support of the organization.

“We’re thrilled to welcome a great group of progressive leaders to Iowa,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “It’s going to be a fun night and provide a lot of energy for progressives after the midterm election. We are ready to continue our efforts to stand up for our shared values and push back against the dangerous direction conservatives want to take us, whether it’s in Washington or right here in Iowa. And with this lineup we know we’ll be fired up heading into the new year.”  

“I’m looking forward to returning to Iowa and addressing Progress Iowa–a group that has been at the forefront of organizing efforts to strengthen progressive values and elect more Democrats,” said Mayor Buttigieg. “As this year’s elections results showed, next-generation Democrats made tremendous strides in Iowa but there is a lot more work to be done. The debate over the future of the Democratic Party—how we continue to build on our successes, how we define and communicate our values, and how we organize in communities both urban and rural—starts in places like Iowa. I’m ready to get to work and begin this discussion with Progress Iowa.”

“We’re in a battle for the soul of our country,” said Sen. Merkley. “We need the guts to take on the most important fights, the ones that will determine what kind of country and world our kids live in. Progress Iowa is helping lead that work and I’m looking forward to celebrating together the Blue Wave wins and gearing up for the battles ahead.”

“I always said the road to the House majority ran through Iowa, and we proved it true by sending Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne to Congress,” said Rep. Swalwell. “We even made Steve King sweat through J.D. Scholten’s amazing efforts. We’ve built a better Congress, and as we start using that to build a better America, so too must we start building our efforts for 2020. We’ve got a firm foothold on the future, and now it’s time to climb!”

“The work being done by Progress Iowa is important in turning the state blue again,” said Mr. Yang. “I’m honored and excited to participate in the Holiday Party and support the organization in all the great things that they do.”  

Since being founded in 2012, Progress Iowa has grown from a group of less than 2 dozen to a community of more than 75,000 progressives, the largest online organization in the state. The organization works closely with local progressive groups across a spectrum of issues, and reach millions each year with creative social and earned media tactics. Earlier this year Progress Iowa organized the March for Our Lives along with the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa; coordinated efforts to hold “Runaway Rod” Blum accountable for ducking his constituents along with Indivisible Iowa, Americans for Democratic Action Iowa, and Iowa Citizen Action Network; and fought back against right-wing policies in the legislature with AFSCME Council 61, the Iowa State Education Association, One Iowa, the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood, and many others.

This is Progress Iowa’s 6th annual Holiday Party, where progressive activists and leaders gather each year. Past speakers have included Senator Bernie Sanders, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, Sister Simone Campbell of Nuns on the Bus, former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, and former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Organizers are expecting strong attendance for the event on Thursday, December 20th. Tickets to the Progress Iowa Holiday Party are $50 each and available at  

Event Details:

WHAT: 6th Annual Progress Iowa Holiday Party, featuring newly elected Members of Congress Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang
WHEN: Thursday, December 20, 2018; Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Program begins at 6:15 p.m.
WHERE: Temple for Performing Arts; 1011 Locust St, Des Moines, IA 50309

Speaker Biographies:

Cindy Axne is an Iowan, a small business owner, parent and community activist – and now the Representative-Elect from Iowa’s 3rd District. A fifth-generation Iowan, Cindy grew up in a tight-knit family on the south side of Des Moines. Her parents raised Cindy and her sisters to speak their minds and not be afraid to take on tough fights – even when it was uncomfortable. That is the principle that has defined Cindy’s adult life – from working to keep state government accountable to the people it serves, to advocating for all-day kindergarten for every child in West Des Moines and fighting to stop a local government plan to use state park land and private property to build an unnecessary new road.

Pete Buttigieg is the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He was first elected mayor in 2011 at only 29 years old, and re-elected in 2015 with 80% of the vote. Mayor Pete served as a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve, and took an unpaid seven months leave during his mayoral term for a deployment to Afghanistan. For his counterterrorism work, he earned the Joint Service Commendation Medal. In 2017, he ran for Democratic National Committee chair, earning national praise for his clear message and emphasis on rebuilding the Democratic Party from the ground up in every community. The Washington Post called him “the most interesting Mayor you’ve never heard of” and the New York Times ran a column saying that he could be the nation’s “first gay president.”Additionally, President Obama named him one of four Democrats who represented the future of the Democratic Party. A Rhodes Scholar, Mayor Pete studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford and holds a bachelor’s degree in History and Literature from Harvard. He lives with his husband Chasten in the same South Bend neighborhood where he grew up.

Abby Finkenauer has been on the front lines fighting back and making sure hardworking Iowans have a voice and a vote. In the State House Abby led the fight for Iowa’s working families, small businesses and main streets. Never one to back down from a fight, she has opposed massive corporate giveaways to out of state companies, fought to make high-quality healthcare available to all Iowans and supported affordable education for all students. She chose to stay in Iowa for college, earning her degree from Drake University, and although she still has over $15,000 in student loan debt she is committed to making our state a place where people of all ages can work hard, get a good education, and have a good life.

Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley has dedicated his life to fighting for the underdog. Jeff’s career in public service and running non-profits like Habitat for Humanity, has been guided by how he can make a difference in people’s lives, create opportunity, and be a champion for working families. A son of a union mechanic and the first in his family to go to college, Jeff’s always been focused on helping working families get ahead.  He’s successfully taken on payday lenders, banned predatory mortgages, and led the effort to block Wall Street from gambling with taxpayer-insured deposits. Jeff sees the threat of climate chaos as a defining challenge of our generation. Jeff was the first senator to lay out a plan to transition America to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2050. Jeff is driven by a belief that we need to take on the most important fights, even when the the odds are long. That’s why he worked to reduce the threat of nuclear war early in his career, and why he went to the border to expose Donald Trump’s cruel child-snatching policy. Jeff lives with his wife Mary, a nurse, and has two children, Brynne and Jonathan, and an airedale terrier, Sadie.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, 38, was just elected to his fourth term serving California’s 15th Congressional District. As co-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, he helps set the caucus’ policy agenda. As founder and chair of Future Forum, he is House Democrats’ point man on outreach to millennials – the nation’s biggest, most diverse and best-educated generation. As incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee’s CIA Subcommittee and a Judiciary Committee member, he works to keep our nation safe. Focused on healthcare, better jobs, affordable education and cleaner government, he’s fighting to restore Americans’ freedom to dream.

Andrew Yang is an entrepreneur and author running for President as a Democrat in 2020. Andrew has worked in startups and early-stage growth companies as a founder or executive for almost twenty years. In 2011 he founded Venture for America, a national entrepreneurship fellowship that has helped create almost 3,000 jobs in Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and other cities throughout the country. In his book The War on Normal People, he explains the mounting crisis of the automation of labor and makes the case for the Freedom Dividend, a Universal Basic Income of $1,000 a month for every American as well as other policies to progress to the next stage of capitalism. Andrew was named a Presidential Ambassador of Entrepreneurship by the White House under the Obama administration and a Champion of Change for his work with Venture for America. He lives in New York City with his wife and two sons.