Liberal group MoveOn taps Rahna Epting as executive director

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The grassroots liberal group MoveOn is naming its chief of program, Rahna Epting, as its next executive director.

MoveOn told The Associated Press about Epting's appointment before an announcement expected later Wednesday.

Epting has worked for the organization for nearly three years, including heading up its 2018 election program. She will take the helm in the fall.

In an interview with the AP, Epting said she is focused on the rise of several specific threats, including white nationalism, misinformation efforts and voter suppression, and wants MoveOn to tap into "a political awakening of people who had never been politically engaged before."

"I want MoveOn to be a community for anyone in this country who wants to take the agency they have to build a better country for everyone," Epting said by telephone ahead of the announcement. "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."

As a black and Iranian woman, she will be the first person of color to fill MoveOn's executive director role in its 20-plus-year history.

The announcement comes days before MoveOn hosts its first candidate forum, which is set to draw eight members of the sprawling Democratic field . At the June 1 forum in San Francisco, candidates will take the stage individually to pitch a big idea central to their campaigns. Notably, former Vice President Joe Biden, who has emerged as a front-runner in the 2020 contest, is not expected to attend.

MoveOn has played a role in Democratic presidential primaries since 2004, when its members supported Howard Dean, though it did not endorse in that race. In 2008, MoveOn's members voted to endorse Barack Obama, and in 2016, the group's members voted in large numbers to support Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton.

Epting said it's too soon to say whether MoveOn will endorse a candidate this cycle, adding that surveys of the group's members do not show them coalescing around any candidate.

"We do think that we have the ability to affect the direction the wind is blowing in at times," she said. "If we endorse in this primary, it will be because we feel strongly about one candidate and we believe we can have an impact by endorsing them."

Epting said the organization's theory is that a "progressive, inspiring, bold candidate is what will help us kick (President Donald) Trump out of office in 2020." But, she added, if a more centrist Democrat wins the nomination "MoveOn sure as heck is going to be right behind them and help them win in the general election."

Epting takes over from Anna Galland and Ilya Sheyman, who in January announced they were leaving after six years to make way for new leadership.

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