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By Alec Pruchnicki

Have you ever disagreed with something a politician has done and wished you were in a position to do something about it? Of course you have. Everyone has. But maybe the thought of running for congress, mayor, governor, or president seemed a little impractical at the time? There is a way you can begin to get involved with politics at a basic grass roots level to try and get your voice heard. Join the New York County Democratic Committee.

I’ve often advocated for people to join a political club, like the Village Independent Democrats that I’m a member of, to address a wide range of issues in depth. But if that is more than you can do right now, there is a more basic grass-roots level of involvement. The County Committee of the Democratic Party is a non-paying volunteer organization. Its most important function is to nominate candidates to run on the Democratic line in special elections, or sometimes general elections, when an elected official leaves office before the end of his/her term (e.g. resignation, removal from office, death, other).

Usually, voters have several choices in primary elections for various offices on the city, state, and federal levels. The nominating process for these primaries includes signature collection, campaigning, and then voting on primary day. This usually takes several months. Once the primary is held, the winner becomes the Democratic Party nominee for the November general election. But sometimes, between primary day and the general election, something happens to the Democratic nominee so they can’t run and a last-minute replacement must be put in. This is where the County Committee comes in. They meet and select a replacement nominee to be put on the ballot. One of the more famous examples of this was when Ted Weiss, the Democratic Party nominee for Congress, died in 1992 and the New York County Democratic Committee met and nominated Jerry Nadler to take his place. Nadler won the general election and has been our representative since then.

In order to serve on the Democratic County Committee, a volunteer must be a registered Democrat (the Republicans might have their own version of this), be at least 18 years old, and live within the assembly district they are running in. For most of us in the West Village this would be the 66th Assembly District. The process of becoming a Democratic County Committeeperson consists of collecting a small number of signatures from Democrats living in your area, campaigning if you have an opponent (which rarely happens) and getting elected on primary day (which almost always happens). If you run with the endorsement of the Village Independent Democrats, the local Village Democratic club, they will help you and make the whole process very simple. To run with support from the Village Independent Democrats (VID) go to their website (Villagedemocrats.org), click on the Get Involved tab, then click on the Run for County Committee link, then click on the Sign Up to Run for County Committee link, then fill out the County Committee form and submit it.

The County Committee usually has one or two organizing meetings every two years to introduce members to procedures and set the New York County Democratic Party rules for the upcoming two years. Often, elected officials address the gathering. When a vacancy occurs, a special meeting is called. At this special meeting candidates give speeches and the County Committee votes to determine who the nominee of the Democratic Party will be. Once the nominee is determined, County Committee members can, at their discretion, help get the nominee get elected. The local political clubs are good sources for learning how to petition and campaign if a County Committeeperson is interested.

Recently, there has been some movement within the County Committee to expand its role in the party and outside, but this is still being worked on. Getting involved in the County Committee is as basic grass roots democracy as you will get in a city our size, so if you want to be involved in your community this is a great opportunity.

The deadline to volunteer to be on the County Committee has not yet been set by the NYS Legislature but it is best to start this process by the end of February. To learn more contact Tony Hoffmann at TonyHoffmann26@gmail.com or sign up to run with the Village Independent Democrats by going to their website, VillageDemocrats.org, and follow the steps outlined above. Welcome to the fight!

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