13 activists at the US’ largest annual gathering of progressives say what matters to them in 2020

Eliza Relman
Reps. Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Deb Haaland spoke at Netroots Nation on Saturday.
  • Nearly 4,000 progressive activists gathered at Netroots Nation in Philadelphia last week to strategize and hear from some of the most outspoken Democrats on the party's left flank.
  • The activists, lawmakers, and Democratic party officials at Netroots overwhelmingly aligned with the more progressive wing of the party. But some remain undecided about their 2020 primary vote. 
  • "I'm here for Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren," Chris Petzold, a Washington state Indivisible chapter founder, told INSIDER. "I really want to see a woman in the White House next, I think it's beyond time."
  • Here's what 13 of them had to say. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

PHILADELPHIA — Nearly 4,000 progressive activists gathered at Netroots Nation in Philadelphia last week to strategize, debate big policy issues, and hear from some of the most outspoken Democrats on the left flank of the party.

Kelly Thome, a retired molecular biologist from Massachusetts who has attended all 14 annual Netroots gatherings called the weekend a "combination family reunion and summer camp for progressives." Kim, a labor organizer and freelance writer who asked to keep her last name anonymous because she's often threatened online, called Netroots "liberal Coachella." 

The activists, lawmakers, and Democratic party officials at Netroots overwhelmingly aligned with the more progressive wing of the party. 

The crowds were particularly enthusiastic about progressive Reps. Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib, who challenged the Democratic establishment during a Saturday morning panel, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who also spoke over the weekend. 

A march to protest the Trump administration's immigration policies makes its way through Philadelphia's City Center on Friday.

Read more: An anonymous Democratic group leaked a poll that shows swing voters deeply dislike Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the left-wing, widening the party's rift

Kim, who is an anarchist, said she won't vote in the 2020 election because she wants to "get rid of the whole system," but she said Warren "would have the most luck in pushing through not-terrible legislation" among the 2020 presidential candidates. Kim added that while she believes Sen. Bernie Sanders has better positions than Warren on capitalism and workers' rights, he "has a lot more work to do when it comes to listening to people who aren't like him." 

Philadelphia City Council member Helen Gym riled up the Netroots crowd on Saturday when she called for activists to push the Democratic Party leftward.

"At the local level, we had an oil refinery that blew up, so yes a Green New Deal matters to us," Gym told INSIDER after her speech. "We had a hospital that's closing because private equity swept in and bankrupted it in less than 18 months and 3,000 people are out of job and 50,000 patients don't know where to go in the poorest city in the country, so yeah Medicare for All matters."

She went on, "People who are regressive are politicians who refuse to listen to the people, and that doesn't just have to be Donald Trump or one particular party." 

Here's what other activists had to say: 

Summer Stinson (right), Washington state public education advocate: "I'm a huge Warren fan ... I was supporting Bernie last time, but I'm supporting Warren and her 'plan for that' this time."

Eliza Relman/INSIDER

Chris Petzold, a Washington state Indivisible chapter founder said, "I'm here for Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren ... I really want to see a woman in the White House next, I think it's beyond time."



Dave Manson, executive director of the Idaho Falls Community Food Basket, wants a candidate who'll fight poverty.

Eliza Relman/INSIDER

He was a Sanders supporter in 2016, but he's undecided now and probably won't vote for Sanders: "I like the energy, youth, focus, and passion of some of the other candidates."



Stan Shapiro, left, co-founder of Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks, and Bo Dirnbach, a retired schoolteacher, both support Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Eliza Relman/INSIDER

"There are other candidates who are approaching [Sanders'] level of progressivity, especially Elizabeth Warren," Shapiro said.

Dirnbach, added, "Maybe a Bernie-Warren ticket with Tulsi Gabbard as secretary of defense?"



Kelly Thome is a retired molecular biologist from Massachusetts.

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"I can't stand Bernie," she said. "I can't stand him at all. He showed his true colors here in 2015 when he spoke over a group of black women who wanted to speak and that turned me off on him forever ... Warren is my senator, and I adore her."



David Reid, businessman from Manchester, NH, said Sanders' "time has passed," but he is excited about Warren, Sen. Cory Booker, and Sen. Kamala Harris — and he "still hasn't ruled out Biden."

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Gerry Hoffman, a professor of chemistry at Edinboro University, ran for and was elected to serve his local Democratic party of Erie County.

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"I'm a very indecisive person ... It's such a fraught decision that I'll waffle until right before I have to decide," he said of the 2020 Democratic primary.



Anita Sarah Jackson, a Netroots board member who works for Moms Rising in the Bay Area said the 2020 candidates who didn't attend the conference missed out on a key opportunity.

Eliza Relman/INSIDER

"The candidates who weren't here still have an opportunity to talk to the grassroots, but this is really such a special space," she said.



Miranda Marquit, chair of county Democrats in Idaho Falls, ID, voted for Sanders in the 2016 primary.

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"My top issues have a lot to do with creating a more just economy," she said, naming income inequality, addressing generational poverty, healthcare, and climate change.



Stephanie Singer is a data scientist from Portland, Oregon.

Eliza Relman/INSIDER

"What I think is much more important is the work that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is doing in Congress and the work the Justice Democrats are doing to recruit more candidates like her all over the country ... you gotta force the leaders to do what needs to be done," she said.



Matt Nelson, director of Latinx political advocacy group Presente.org, is excited about the progressive freshmen congresswomen.

Eliza Relman/INSIDER

"It's just fantastic to see that we can push this new crop of leaders to truly represent the public and make the transformative change that we all yearn for," he said.