Becca Rast

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Jess King and Becca Rast


Becca Rast is a Lancaster Pennsylvania activist. She is campaign manager at Jess King for Congress.

Married to Jonathan Smucker.

Bernie's field director

The Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign has tapped a Lancaster woman to be its national field director.

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Becca Rast, 29, has been named to the campaign’s leadership team as it prepares for its official launch later this month.

“I am so excited to work with volunteers and staff all over the country to elect a champion for working people,” she said.

Rast has been involved in political organizing and activism since her teens. At McCaskey High School, from which she graduated in 2008, she co-founded Lancaster Students for a Democratic Society and pushed to end U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She co-founded Lancaster Stands Up, a progressive organization formed in the wake of President Donald Trump’s 2016 election, and managed Democrat Jess King’s 2018 congressional campaign against Republican U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker.

Though Smucker won the election, securing his second term, the King campaign raised more money and built a larger field organization than had any previous Democrat in Lancaster County.

In her new position, Rast will oversee the Sanders campaign’s nationwide volunteer training and mobilization effort.

King praised Rast’s “exemplary organizing skills.”[1]

Lancaster Stands Up aggressive action

Lancaster Stands Up's most aggressive action, though, took place in early March 2018, when three Lancaster Stands Up leaders and another supporter paid to attend a Lancaster Chamber of Commerce forum, which featured a question-and-answer session with Representative Lloyd Smucker. As Smucker prepared to take questions from the crowd, the four infiltrators stood up one by one and interrupted the event.

Becca Rast was one of them. In front of a roomful of Republicans, she denounced Smucker’s support for Trump’s “racist immigration and economic policies.” Michelle Hines stood up immediately afterward—to shouts of “shut up” from old men in the crowd—and told Smucker that she had never seen her neighbors “so fearful for their lives and their families lives since you voted to repeal the ACA.”

“Our representatives have not ever been pressured in the way they are being now,” says Rast, a group founder who grew up in town. “Congressman Smucker was just so freaked out by it. He didn’t know how to respond.”

Lancaster Stands Up/old comrades

While Lancaster Stands Up has mostly been playing defense, its leaders aim for something more.

“I feel like everything we have done up until this point is reactive,” says Nick Martin, the 28-year-old former regional field director for the Bernie Sanders campaign here. Together with Becca Rast and a few other friends outraged by last year’s election, he called the first meeting of Lancaster Stands Up. “Now we are actually going on the offensive and building political power.”

The Nation writer Jimmy Tobias caught up with Martin—who, like Becca Rast, he first met in 2010 when they were all were involved in a campaign against mountaintop-removal mining in West Virginia—during the organization’s April mass meeting. Wearing a camouflage cap and work boots, he is greeting people, a mostly older white set, as they file into a local bar in downtown Lancaster.

“Our goal,” he explains, “is to use visionary politics to build a long-term mass-scale organization.”

Committed radicals

Jonathan Smucker has been politically active since he was a high school student in the 1990s. He was one of the leading forces behind the anti-globalization protest known as A16 in 2000. He’s been an organizer ever since, and authored the book “Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals.”

Becca Rast and Smucker married and moved to Oakland, where Rast was a top organizer for 350.org, the cutting-edge environmental group that made opposing the Keystone XL pipeline a top priority.

But eventually, they felt the pull of home. “I have my values because I grew up here, and because my parents chose to raise me in a Mennonite church, and because I learned about inequality both in the U.S. and the world from growing up here. And when I left, a lot of people told me the place that I’m from could never be progressive, would always be conservative. And I let myself believe that a little bit. And then as I learned how to organize and what it meant to organize working people and make political change, I realized just how much deep potential there is here,” Rast said.

So they moved back to Lancaster in 2016 to prove them wrong. “I just really, deeply believe that the Democratic Party and progressive movements have written off places like this in the country and it’s a huge mistake, and that urban, small cities like Lancaster, Harrisburg have the potential to transform this country if we actually do organizing across class, race, and geographical lines.”[2]

King's radical staff

Becca Rast, Jess King’s campaign manager, organized her high school to march against the Iraq War with help from Jonathan Smucker, who at the time was the national field organizer for the War Resisters League. Rast’s teenage co-organizer, Nick Martin, is now the King campaign’s field director.[3]

Jess King for Congress crew

Becca Rast August 4 2018:

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Jess King for Congress crew at the Annual Day Parade! — with Seraphina Thorpe, Savannah Thorpe, Janet Diaz, Nelly Torres, Ismail Smith, Preston Kilgore, Jose Rivera and Lauren Edgell.

Lancaster Stands Up Leadership Team

Lancaster Stands Up: the handful of folks who called for the initial emergency community meeting November 2016 has since then developed into a multiracial and multigenerational 11-person coordinating team, which includes Eliza Booth, Rafael Diaz, Amber Farward, Evan Gentry, Michelle Hines, Daniel Levin, Claudia Paz, Jonathan Smucker, Susan Wenger, Ismail Yoder Salim, and Melanie Yoder Salim (previous members who served: Amanda Kemp, Nick Martin, Becca Rast, Nelly Torres).

Since May, our Leadership Team has been preparing our next steps—how to move from protest to political power. We have been polling our base and talking with volunteers to figure out how to move this important work forward. We have been developing a clearer and more sustainable structure to allow LSU members to contribute their time, energy, passions, and gifts for the work ahead.[4]

Co-founders

We Will Replace You co-founders included:

Comrades

Joshua Kahn Russell February 14, 2009 ·

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With Payal Parekh, Ben Powless, Shadia Fayne Wood, Harjit Singh Gill, Jason Negron-Gonzales, Becca Rast, Max Uhlenbeck, Sharon Lungo, Aditi Vaidya, Chris Crass, Madeline Gardner, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Ananda Lee Tan, Brian Kelly, Andrej Grubacic and Clare Bayard.

References