NEW YORK (AP) — The political organization founded by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will host a bipartisan presidential forum on income inequality this December in early-voting Iowa.
The campaigns of all declared Democratic and Republican candidates will be notified of the details this week, a spokeswoman for The Progressive Agenda Committee told The Associated Press on Sunday. Official invitations will then go out to the top five candidates in each party based on Nov. 1 polls.
The event will be held Dec. 6 at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The candidates will appear on stage one at a time to answer questions on issues of inequality by a panel of professors, experts and journalists.
"We believe this is an incredible opportunity for candidates to have the stage to themselves and to discuss their solutions for tackling income inequality," said Geri Prado, the committee's executive director.
None of the candidates have officially committed to attending the forum, though some — including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley — have previously expressed interest in attending. If one of the top five candidates declines an invitation, it will be extended to the sixth and, if needed, seventh place person in the polls.
De Blasio founded the Progressive Agenda this spring to call attention to issues like paid sick leave, universal prekindergarten and reining in the national debt. The group is largely comprised of left-leaning politicians — like Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton — labor leaders and activists. But its members have taken pains to point out that some issues of inequality, like closing the carried interest loophole, have been embraced by Republicans like Donald Trump and Jeb Bush.
The group — and the forum — is most closely associated with de Blasio, a Democrat who has worked to raise his national profile to become a loud voice on liberal issues. He has said that he will offer his endorsement in the race sometime after the forum.
The mayor has taken some criticism among Democrats for not immediately endorsing Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose 2000 Senate campaign de Blasio ran. While some on the mayor's own have staff have urged him to endorse Clinton now, the mayor has yet to go beyond praising some of her positions, including her opposition last week to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, while continuing to insist that he wants to hear from her and the other candidates.
"Americans from all walks of life are concerned about the growing gap between the very wealthy and everyone else," de Blasio said in a statement given to The Associated Press. "But if we are going to make the systemic changes we need here in New York City and in cities all across America, we need the federal government to be our partner in this."
A spokeswoman for the mayor confirmed that the mayor would attend the Iowa event but would not otherwise participate. The forum is being co-sponsored by the University of Iowa Lecture Committee.