Tag Archive: County Committee

Westwood Gets a Case of the Willies

On Friday, Former Bergen County Democratic Party Boss Joe Ferriero, finally reports to prison for racketeering. However, a lot of Democrats in the Bergen County Democratic machine are still here. Like Dracula’s Renfield, anxiously awaiting the return of their master,…
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Bottom Up

I agree with so much here, though quibble with a few details – according to the NJ AG’s office, the laws reserving one county committee slot per voting district for a female and one for a male, were changed some years ago. You can have two county committee seats held by the same sex. And I’d say these seats are often crazy-easy to get, but where there is contention, not easy. Dems in Bergen County have some stories to tell on that. Thanks for writing this, kalimirch – it’s important to remember. Promoted by Rosi.

The smallest elected position in the state of New Jersey, the local political committeeperson, is also one of the most vital towards influencing the politics of our state.  Every single voting district in our state elects a male and female Democratic and Republican committeeperson, producing a total of over 12,000 seats across the state.  The local committee chooses the municipal and county party leadership, the real center of power in New Jersey politics.  For years, progressives have lamented the corruption and nepotism that runs rampant through the most powerful county parties in the state.  Look no further than Essex, Hudson and Camden Counties, where the Democratic name is tarnished by petty bosses and their minions.  The key to reversing this trend of bossism is taking back control of the Democratic committee seats, especially in our most boss-plagued counties.

These seats are not particularly difficult to win.  The vote totals often resemble football scores more than they do elections, with a vote total of 100 being quite high.  Think of how quickly a politician like Joe DiVincenzo of Essex County would lose his power if the Essex County Democratic Committee were turned on its head, made up of progressive members more interested in policy than power.  It wouldn’t be an easy thing to do, and would involve a massive recruitment effort of ordinary citizens who vote often, but have never really been involved in politics.  But, if progressives in New Jersey (and, more often, in their counties) were able to rally together around this cause as the committee elections approached, taking our party back would be totally within the realm of possibility.

The Biggest Day in NJ Politics

Update: Vin won his election – congrats Chairman! – JG

Today, the Tuesday after Primary Day, is the least talked about, most important day of the year in New Jersey politics. It’s the day when duly elected county committee members meet to choose their party leadership. Different counties have leadership elections in different years, according to their own bylaws, so not every county has a contested race for leadership this year. But Monmouth County does – and the results matter.

Tonight, the Monmouth County Democratic Committee will be electing a new Chair for the first time in 23 years. And one of the candidates – Vin Gopal – has a real chance to win, with your help. Vin is a young, smart, progressive voice who has been there to support countless good democrats throughout Monmouth County and indeed across the entire state. His own race for the Assembly last year showed the energy, excitement and class that he would bring to the role as Monmouth County Chair. His election would be a watershed moment for progressives throughout the state, and a sign of great things to come in Monmouth County.

So, for anyone who has ever complained about those “mean old bosses” or “that corrupt machine” or whatever other label gets placed on our elected party leadership – there are only two places you should possibly be tonight: your own county reorganization meeting, or Monmouth County’s reorganization meeting at:

The Shore Casino, 1 Simon Lake Dr, Atlantic Highlands NJ.

* Registration begins at 6pm * Voting times from 7pm – 9pm

If you are a Monmouth County Committee Member, I urge you to vote for Vin Gopal for Chair tonight. But, you don’t need to live in Monmouth to help – Vin’s campaign needs phonebankers, drivers, challengers, organizers and more for what will be a hard-fought election tonight. Please do what you can to help a rising star among New Jersey’s progressive democrats, and a good friend of (and occasional contributor to) Blue Jersey.

Today, a chance to shake up politics as usual in Essex

Some of the best people I know in NJ politics are running today for Democratic County Committee on the reformer’s line – Go, Line B! – promoted by Rosi

Today’s primary includes a lot of big name races that have garnered statewide attention. But beyond the Rothmans and the Pascrells, the Paynes and the Rices, there’s a campaign going on under the radar in Essex that has the potential to make a difference in how New Jersey politics works.

A slate of 100 reformers are running for Democratic County Committee in Essex this year under the slogan ‘Essex County Independent Democrats’ on Line B. It’s a diverse group from Newark to Millburn, and it includes union members, community leaders, and ordinary citizens. The New Jersey Working Families alliance has been helping coordinate this joint effort between labor unions like CWA, NJEA, and SEIU, local community organizations like the NAACP-Irvington and national progressive groups like MoveOn.org and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee since January.

Now’s the time to join the party

Many people get involved in politics because they are passionate about an issue; they are concerned about soaring property taxes, overdevelopment, ensuring quality education for our children, or guaranteeing our civil rights–whatever the issue, at one point or another your political party has had a heavy hand in the decision making process.

People understand that they need to participate in the political process if they want results. For most that participation is limited to showing up on Election Day and casting a vote, for the more engaged it may be going door to door and helping out in a specific candidate’s campaign.

What we don’t often recognize is that those individuals who assume party leadership have a direct impact on which candidates run and what issues are on the party platform (if any).  These positions are available to ANY concerned citizen and the time to seize the power is now.

The great thing about serving on the county committee is that it does not require a large investment of time, and provides a large measure of control of who represents us in Trenton.

In addition to electing the county party chair and awarding the party line for Senate and Assembly seats along with local offices, the county committee members participate in filling vacancies in office when someone resigns in disgrace, retires, or passes away. Shockingly, more than a third of the legislature has entered office by way of a vote of the county committee, not the general public.

It’s because the county committees wield so much power that Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-37) and Senator Diane Allen (R-7) sponsored the Party Democracy Act, to ensure the political parties adopt rules and procedures ensuring fundamental fairness and guaranteeing a secret ballot when making important votes.  The Party Democracy Act was signed into law in 2009, and now every Republican and Democratic voter is offered a fair chance to vote their conscience.

So if you’re ready to do something, here are some basic tips for running for county committee. 1) Find out from your municipal clerk which political party committee seats are up for election this year; 2) Complete the Party Declaration Form (Democratic or Republican Party) for the County Committee you wish to run for; 2) Get a petition & required number of signatures from the municipal clerk (in most cases no more than 10 signatures needed); 3) File the petition with your town clerk by April 11th; 4) Show up on June 7th with your family and friends and vote for yourself (most seats are won with just a few dozen votes or less).

Visit www.TheCitizensCampaign.com and take our free, half-hour online class and learn the tips and tools to become a successful neighborhood party leader.  

Once elected, you have the power to adopt or amend your party constitution, create your party platform, and seek the chairmanship of your county party.

The bottom line is, if you want to gain these powers, then you need to take this opportunity to step up to the plate.

Change Starts at the Bottom

It all started with Jeff Jones in Paterson.  Then Jeff Gardner struck in Hawthorne and Mayor Domenick Stampone in Haledon.  Now we have a Passaic County Democratic Party wondering what this all means.  

Each was a unique situation.  All have the establishment wondering what it means to the status quo.  Mayor-Elect Jeff Jones took a complacent incumbent and strong African-American turn out to win 43% of the vote in a non-partisan May municipal race. Jeff Gardner recruited 26 grassroots activists and out hustled, out messaged, and out classed Senator John Girgenti to take over the Hawthorne Democratic County Committee and provide fresh leadership to what was a lackluster under performing local party.  Mayor Domenick Stampone used a combination of establishment support, a strong record of accomplishments, and a diverse ticket to gain over 55% of the vote in a Democratic Primary where he was challenged by a sitting Councilman running with the support of the local municipal leader.  

All 3 races had different circumstances sharing a common thread: an injection of new faces and leadership into the Passaic County Democratic Organization.  In the short term it is hard to tell how these races will affect the current party leadership.    

Chairman John Currie is not reelected until June 2011.  His record has been strong, going a decade without losing a countywide race.  But after a lackluster 2009 cycle where all 4 of his candidates lost, his fate will surely be judged by the electoral outcome of Sheriff Jerry Speziale and Freeholders Terry Duffy and Pat Lepore in November.  Losses in any of these races will surely spark a challenge to his Chairmanship.  Regardless of November’s outcome, the Chairman will be dealing with an energized County Committee looking to bring a fresh approach to the party apparatus.  

But the biggest lesson we should all take from the events in Passaic County is if you want to make a difference, get off this site and start organizing.  Start attending your local DFA-NJ meetings.  Join the County Committee in your town or engage local leaders.  You’d be amazed how quickly you can get intertwined in the local political scene.  Writing on Blue Jersey, although a good start, is not enough.  As Jeff proved, change starts at the bottom.  

(Full Disclosure: I was a paid consultant for Haledon Mayor Domenick Stampone’s primary campaign and will be working for him through the general election.)

Jeff Gardner’s good night in Hawthorne

Update 6/10/10 – The vote-by-mail results have been counted and have not altered Tuesday night’s outcome of this election. Jeff has a majority of county committee members, and the party election for new municipal chair in Hawthorne must take place by Tuesday.

Update: Jeff Gardner is the new Democratic Municipal Chair of Hawthorne, NJ.

Jeff Gardner is now well-positioned to become the next Democratic Municipal Chair of his hometown of Hawthorne (Passaic), having just prevailed over longtime Municipal Chair Senator John Girgenti in a party contest for county committee seats. Voting machine results show Jeff’s slate won 19 of 26 seats, to Girgenti’s 7 seats. Still to be counted, however, are at least 79 vote-by-mail ballots, which could still change that equation. So, it’s going to be a late night in Hawthorne, which may spill into tomorrow before the obvious trend is certified as a clear win.

During this campaign, Girgenti’s team employed disreputable tactics against the upstart party reformers led by Jeff, including sending out a mailer with a snarling police dog, an ugly chain link fence and the headline: Beware of Fake Democrats, accusing Jeff’s Democrats for Hawthorne team of being secret Republicans. In fact, something like the opposite was true, as GOP stalwarts in Hawthorne seemed uncomfortable enough at the idea of change that they inserted themselves into the Democratic primary as something quite more than mere bystanders.

But assumption of voter loyalty and contempt for challengers of your own party are no substitute for shoe leather and fresh ideas.

Jeff and the team behind him showed how it’s done. His people – who include bluestatejoe – simply and plainly did their work. They were out weekends, and evenings meeting voters, laying out their plans to fellow Democrats and engaging them in the changes to come. Also a factor in Jeff’s win was the Democracy for America group he leads in Passaic County, which meets in Hawthorne, enthusiastically supports the primary process, and contributed labor and ideas to the Hawthorne party reformers.

Congratulations, Jeff. Congratulations Democrats for Hawthorne. Next comes the reorganization meeting, and the election of a new Municipal Chair. You earned change. Can’t wait to watch you make it. And I hope you have Glee Tivo’d.

Caption Contest: Be Very Afraid

More insanity from Hawthorne’s “Real” Democrats:

Fake Democrats

This attack piece landed today, accusing the Democrats for Hawthorne of secretly being Republicans. It’s a bit of a ridiculous notion considering how well-known our slate is as longtime active democrats – they may as well accuse us of being from Mars. But, I guess when you’re willing to spend anything on a county committee race, I suppose you’d be willing to say anything too.

My caption: If their team is as desperate as this dog is scary, we’re looking pretty good.