Rahna Epting Infuses MoveOn With Multiracial and Multicultural Leadership

MoveOn, one of the nation’s leading grassroots political organizations, announced its new executive director. Rahna Epting is Black and Iranian, and will be the first person of color to lead the organization. Epting has worked for the organization for three years and will replace former leaders Anna Galland and Ilya Sheyman, who stepped down to make room for new leadership.

MoveOn has played an important role in elections since 2004 when the organization supported Howard Dean in the primaries. In 2008, the group supported Barack Obama’s candidacy and voted to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in 2016. The organization engages in aggressive “petition drives,” and also initiates discussions about domestic reforms, including improved healthcare and infrastructure, according to the MoveOn website.

Epting will assume her new position in the fall and address the challenges of the 2020 electoral cycle and beyond. Her first task, then, is to oust President Donald Trump and create an atmosphere where progressive politics can triumph. This includes fighting for majority control in the Senate and pushing for the election of progressive lawmakers around the country. Epting also intends to focus on several issues impacting the political arena and free expression of political thought. Among the challenges she hopes to combat are white nationalism, social media manipulation of political messages, misinformation, and voter suppression. One of her goals is to organize new voters who are galvanized by today’s highly charged political atmosphere, according to the Star Tribune.

Epting is no stranger to political activity and organizing, and observers believe that she is well positioned to construct a political movement that is capable of transforming the country. She is also poised to lead the next generation of MoveOn organizers harnessing people-power to change the country’s political dynamics. In addition to her work as MoveOn’s election program managing director, she worked for Every Voice — a nonpartisan advocacy group focused on campaign finance reform. The organization was established in 2014 and focused on removing big money from campaigns through advocacy. Epting served as Every Voice’s chief of staff and managed the strategic implementation, worked on staff development, and served as the face of the money in politics efforts across the nation.

Epting also has an extensive organizing background in the union movement and worked with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in various capacities. Epting served as member political programs director, where she designed and implemented programs to assist SEIU members in political endeavors around the country. These efforts included support for activists who were running for various offices, to organizing union retirees to lobby for the Affordable Care Act, and developing and cultivating new members. Epting also lobbied the federal government during the administration of President Barack Obama to support the Workforce Investment Act, childcare funding, and the prevention of government-imposed furlough days.

Perhaps her most meaningful work was with the state of Oregon, where she ran the Oregon Bus Project’s PolitiCorps program — a 10-week summer boot camp designed to train youth for placement in political campaigns. While working on the Bus Project, she was recruited as a Wellstone Action Trainer, a role she was active in for more than seven years. Wellstone Trainers provide youth with practical training about how the political system works and about activism. She then became a trainer for the Fair Courts Team, which advances fair court legislation and practices. Epting’s commitment to youth organizing continues through her work on the Board of the Bus Federation Civic Fund, according to the Women’s Media Center website. Her hiring came several days before MoveOn’s June 1st Big Ideas Forum in San Francisco, which drew the major candidates from the Democratic field including former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar,

Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke. The audience was made up of MoveOn members and will be live-streamed across the country, according to the Associated Press. Epting firmly believes that accessibility is the key to political organizing.

“It should be very easy for anyone to go to their computer or go to their phone and be able to connect with us, and we should be able to find a place and a role for them,” according to the Star Tribune.

About the Author

Stephen G. Hall is a sections editor for The North Star. He is a historian specializing in 19th and 20th century African American and American intellectual, social and cultural history and the African Diaspora. Hall is the author of A Faithful Account of the Race: African American Historical Writing in Nineteenth-Century America and is working on a new book exploring the scholarly production of Black historians on the African Diaspora from 1885 to 1960.