York Stands Up aims to rouse York County's left

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Former U.S. House candidate Jess King is announced during a York Stands Up meeting at Goodwill Fire Hall in Jacobus Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019. King lost the election for the seat to Lloyd Smucker. Bill Kalina photo

A new progressive, grass-roots organization aims to continue fundraising momentum from last year's congressional elections to make gains in historically red York County.

York Stands Up, a nonprofit organization, might sound familiar. That's because its namesake, Lancaster Stands Up, played a vital role in the competitive 11th District race with its push for Democrat Jess King.

King faced off against Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, in the GOP-dominated district that includes both southern York County and Lancaster County. Yet with the organization's help, she managed to outraise the incumbent despite losing by 18 points.

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"We saw what Lancaster Stands Up was doing, and we felt that was something York could benefit from," co-founder Sam Fullam said. "After the 2018 elections and seeing how many got involved in Jess King's campaign, it was clear there was a desire here for the same sort of group."

The nonprofit's goal is to empower everyday people to run in York County, focusing on a platform of social, economic, racial and environmental justice, she added.

Last month, King said  she'd be donating all of her leftover campaign money — just more than $70,000 — to Lancaster Stands Up and other like-minded progressive groups. York's branch received $10,000.

York Stands Up will be the second grass-roots political organization in the county, following The East Wind Project, which worked alongside the Lancaster chapter in last year's congressional elections.

Campaign coordinator Sam Fullam of Hallam talks during a York Stands Up meeting at Goodwill Fire Hall in Jacobus Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019. Former U.S. House District candidate Jess King, who lost in November's election to Lloyd Smucker, spoke at the meeting. Bill Kalina photo

Although the group is focusing on county-level elections — it intends to endorse candidates after the May 21 primary — it plans to support congressional candidates come the 2020 elections, Fullam said.

Fullam said politics all too often involve corporate political action committee donations to candidates, with money ending up in the pockets of Washington consultants.

To combat this, the organization will focus not only on supporting candidates through grass-roots means, but also organizing voters, conducting service projects and planning events between election cycles to maintain enthusiasm, she said.

The organization held its first meeting last month, which brought in more than 100 county residents to the small borough of Jacobus. The group's next meeting will be scheduled after the primary. 

Fullam, who had previously worked for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said the experience taught her that more establishment-based politics aren't what the county needs.

"The establishment on both sides is failing everyday, working-class people, which is what York County is," she said. "We need a movement that's going to continue building after an election cycle."

Now that petitions are being circulated, the group will hold 10-20 "house parties" across the county to engage voters, she added. This will be done on top of consistent canvassing and door-knocking to get petitions signed, as the group emphasizes direct voter contact.

While the group's candidate preferences might differ from the Democratic Party of York County in the future, the county Democrats have been supportive since the group's formation, according to county Democratic Chairman Chad Baker.

"Any organization that is helping to identify, train and support strong Democratic candidates within the county is a welcome addition to our field strategy, as well as to the overall success of our candidates," Baker said. 

Adopting campaign strategies like King's is a way the party can adapt to the constantly changing political environment and give candidates voices — and the party would be foolish not to embrace that, he added.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.