It’s not too late to become a Democratic Municipal committee member for your Ward or District. It only requires a few signatures on a petition, a couple of forms, notarization, and handing the package in to your municipal clerk with a separate form for the County Clerk. Voilà; you are on the primary ballot.
The deadline for submitting your petition is April 2. You have to be a registered Democrat and live in the municipal district/ward for which you are a candidate. One man and one woman are elected in each district/ward. Even as late as now there are frequently some districts or wards within your town where there are no candidates and thus by voting for yourself in the Primary you automatically become a committee member. It helps to talk to your Municipal Democratic Chair and others on the committee in order to get started.
Being a member of your local political party is a great entry into politics. Often, candidates for mayor, council, freeholder, and persons to fill legislative vacancies are chosen from amongst the committee members. Community residents who are interested in gaining experience, visibility, and influence over policy making and candidate nominations in their party should take advantage of these positions. Some privileges include electing local party leadership, at the county and district level, and voting in endorsement meetings, where local parties choose which candidates and ballot initiatives to endorse.
Change often starts at the ground level, your municipal committee, and works its way up through the county committee to the State Committee.
It is estimated that a properly run local campaign for a contested committee seat would take approximately of 5 hours a week, for 6 weeks. In other words, 2.5 hours on a Saturday and Sunday for 6 weekends spread out over April and May and June. There is minimal cost for If the seat you are running for in your municipal election district is uncontested, it may simply be a matter of writing your name in and voting for yourself at the polls on Primary election day. Once elected there are generally about four to six key meetings a year, plus, a few other meetings, maybe monthly.
Our Revolution, (on Facebook) is a progressive national group which has chapters in New Jersey that can provide you with help. I have been involved with its Bergen County chapter which explains its mission:
“We live in a society where the political, social, and economic power is concentrated with the very rich and powerful. As our society continues to value profits over people, it will be the marginalized, the sick, and the poor who will be paying first. To counteract this worrisome trend, we seek a compassionate and radical transformation of our Bergen communities. We will accomplish this by empowering and educating progressive voices with the tools and knowledge to get involved in the political discourse.”
No two county committees are exactly the same and each has its own dynamics, power base, and eccentricities. In NJ just one county party boss, or a small group, or a political boss like George Norcross can sometimes determine which candidate gets the primary party line and the lion-share of its support. Get involved as a local party Democratic Committee member and make your voice heard before the final decision. Different counties set their own rules (and sometimes ignore the rules) so look at their by-laws. As an example here are the bylaws for the Democratic Committee of Bergen County. You can generally find the county by-laws, instructions and forms on the Internet. Joining the committee gives you an opportunity to work with others and seek change.