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Down the Ballot: The Party Posts

by Gotham Gazette Staff, Sep 08, 2010
 

Almost every primary also features races obscure to even most of the political cognoscenti. These are contests to fill various party posts. In heavily Democratic New York City, most of these contests involve rival Democratic factions although the Independence Party in Staten Island also has a record -- which will continue this year -- of contested elections for party posts.

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To see if your area and party has any of these contests, check the Board of Elections list of candidates. It’s divided by borough and party.

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State Party Committee

State committees are the official party organizations. Most Assembly districts get two members -- one male and one female -- elected by party members in that district. Often these elections, little noticed by many voters, involve larger battles for party control between two or more factions.

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This year, there are contests for the Democratic State Committee from some Assembly districts in every borough except Staten Island. The only Staten Islanders who get to choose state committee members on Tuesday are those who belong to the Independence Party.

None of the other parties are having contests for state committee posts.

District Leaders

District leaders are intermediaries between the major political parties and the community in which they are elected. Together they form the governing bodies of the Democratic and Republican parties within their respective counties. The position is often seen as a stepping-stone to higher office. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch started his political career as a district leader.

This year, Democrats in part of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens and members of the Independence Party on Staten Island get to select district leaders.

Each district elects a male and female representative. District leaders serve four-year terms, are not paid and work within the political parties. They select poll inspectors, clerks, supervisors and translators to fill the various poll worker positions on Election Day. They also serve as ex-officio members of the County Committee Executive Board.

"The way to think of them is not as a 'block captain,' but as a 'neighborhood captain,'" according to Alex Carabelli, deputy director of Grassroots Initiative, a non-profit organization that helps community members get elected to local office. "They help coordinate petitioning and local campaigns, and anything else the parties are doing in the community."

Contested elections for district leader often reflect wider battles for party control. So, for example in 2008, members of a group calling itself the Rainbow Rebellion put up candidates to challenge the party organization led by Assemblymember Jose Rivera that then ran the Bronx Democratic Party. The races played a significant role in the ousting of Rivera as party chief.

This city will see similar disputes -- with Brooklyn apparently the focus. The contest in Brooklyn 52nd Assembly district pits people loyal to Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez against those who have opposed Lopez over the year, the Brooklyn Heights blog reported. Lopez also apparently faces challenges in Greenpopint-Williamburg. (The Brooklyn Eagle runs down some similar district leader match-ups.)

Judicial Convention Delegates

A number of candidates on Tuesday are seeking election to posts that some New Yorkers want to eliminate: delegate or alternative delegate to state judicial conventions. Those elected attend a meeting to vote on their party's candidates for state Supreme Court -- New York's main trial court. Their action at these meetings tend to be "a formality because the bosses have usually picked the nominees beforehand," Carol DeMare once wrote in the Albany Times Union.

In the meantime, though, the positions exist, and a lot of Democrats run for them. Some times two competing slates form, one loyal to one group, one aligned with another.

Democrats in sections of every borough except Staten Island get to select delegates. Members of other parties will not be so lucky.

Contests will also take place for alternate delegate -- again for Democrats only.

County Committee

Some Democrats in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Independents on Staten Island -- will also choose their members of the county committee.

Part of the political party machinery, members of a county committee act as representatives for their political party on a very low scale. Usually their territory is only a few blocks and covers approximately 1,000 registered voters. Members of a county committee help select and endorse candidates for higher office.

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