What does a District Leader do? County Executive George Latimer describes the job here:
1 Elise K. Mottel
2 Steven P. Goldenberg
3 Gerard V. Curran Jr. & Michael Weinberg
4 Kathleen M. Lenihan & Jonathan B. Rosenbloom
5 Christopher Weddle & Clinton B. Smith
6 Lori G. Morton & Gail Markels
7 Richard Laster & Kristen P. Browde
8 Joseph A. Gershman & Harriet P. Schleifer
9 Iris Lachaud & Kristin Lore
10 Marie Short & Victoria E. Alzapiedi
11 Randee Glazer & Michael B. Wolfensohn
12 Dawn Greenberg & Beth Sauerhaft
13 Hyman Lubin & Louise W. Lubin
14 Jason Lichtenthal
15 Craig E. Penn
16 Jan L. Wells & Jane Silverman
Here's the basics: our communities are broken into Election Districts (in other places they might be called "precincts") where as many as 1,000 voters may reside. each ED is a compact geography, and people in that ED vote at a specific polling place each primary and election day. In the political organization of the established parties, these EDs are the basic building block of the County Party Committee; each ED generally has two registered party members who get petition signatures every year and serve a two-year term as a "County committee member" from that ED. The term "District Leader" is the unofficial way they are described in everyday language. They are entitled to sit on the County and either the city or town and village Democratic Committees of their residence and participate as a voting member of those committees. Their great power is to vote and endorse or designate candidates for Democratic nominations within those jurisdictions, although the Party Committees also raise and disburse money, hold activities etc and they vote on those matters as well. Once using their power to designate a candidate, the candidate, wih the help of the DL, must collect signatures to qualify for the ballot. That process runs from early June to mid July and is the DL's most expected duty. The individual DL is not required to support the designated candidate but past practice generally encourages one to support that person. Later in the year, the DL is expected, but not legally required, to help in the campaigns: walk with the candidates, do campaign volunteer work, tell others about the nominated Democrats.
Now here's where things differ from community to community. In many towns, villages and small cities, the small number of EDs means a very small group of DLs comprise the local Democratic Committee. In many of these small communities - North Salem, Pound Ridge, Rye city, Pelham - Republicans are dominant. Running as a Democrat is an uphill climb and the DLs are often your only source of support outside of personal friends. In these GOP places, the DLs are not often part of the dominant social mainstream. It is tough to be a democrat in Bronxville or Pelham Manor. It is frankly hilarious to hear DLs described as insiders or political power brokers. In these places the DLs are simply committed volunteers working against the tide to wave the banner of Democratic values in a hostile environment. Before the surge of involvement post-Trump, many DLs labor in anonymity with only personal commitment to drive their efforts.
Now in other places, things are different. In the fewer, larger jurisdictions particularly the cities with strong mayoral government, and Democratic control, the DLs do the same grunt work but within a system where party leadership and city leadership is a substantial thing. But even here, every community is different. In Yonkers and New Rochelle size and population mean Districted City Council seats, unlike the at-large races everywhere else - and those Council Districts in NR and Wards in Yonkers are regional committee structures.
I've been a DL for a long time, before I was ever elected to anything. I've done the grunt work for others, not only for myself. I know what a good DL has to do and I couldn't have been elected without them. They are not insiders, they are grassroots. I appreciate what they have done, their level of involvement in their communities and schools and civic clubs totally outside of politics. They have been there day after day, and particularly in those dark days when Dems barely had a chance to win anything in Westchester.
They matter a lot to me; as a group I respect them in all of their diversity - old and young and middle aged, black and white and Latino and Asian, in every possible demographic - and as the fundamental building block that stands as the permanent firewall against superior GOP money in every election.
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