WHAT IS A DISTRICT LEADER?
District Leader is an unpaid volunteer elected official. In essence, it is an elected representative of the district to a political party. I represent the Democrats of our district to the Democratic Party of New York County. District Leaderships are subject to primary elections every two years. This ostensibly guarantees that any party with formal status in New York State is democratically governed by its members. District Leader is the reformed, democratic version of the old Tammany “Ward Boss”.
In the Democratic Party – being more democratic – each district has two District Leaders, one male and one female, with the same responsibilities. This guarantees gender parity in the party hierarchy, and expands the number of positions available. My Co-Leader is Jenifer Rajkumar.
In Manhattan and Staten Island, District Leader elections are held on Primary Day in odd numbered years. Thus, I will be up for reelection on September 10, 2015.
OK, BUT WHAT DOES A DISTRICT LEADER ACTUALLY DO?
Good question. The formal powers of a DL are very limited, so the role depends on what the specific DL chooses to make of it. I view the position primarily as a community organizing tool. It is a title that can be used to help build consensus at community meetings. Local media and grassroots groups regularly reach out to active DLs on community issues. Elected officials and administrators generally respond to inquiries from DLs promptly – enabling them to act as conduits to the community.
District Leaders also play a very important role in electing judges for New York’s Civil, Supreme and Surrogate Courts. The Democratic Party’s nomination process is heavily influenced by District Leaders – and in Manhattan that is tantamount to election.
In addition to advocacy, the District Leader performs an essential role in our electoral process. Below is a list of a District Leader’s formal responsibilities.
- Sits on the Executive Committee of the NY County Democratic Committee.
- Hires poll workers and election inspectors for the primary elections every September and the general elections in November. (BTW, if anyone reading this is interested in working for the Board of Elections on election days, please contact me.)
- Attends Democratic Party meetings and events on behalf of the district.
- Listens to the residents of the district to learn what issues are affecting their quality of life, such as housing, employment, education, environment and crime.
- Organizes meetings and events in the district to give community members a strong voice.
- Works with the district’s city, state, and federal elected officials to insure that the voices of the community are heard.
- Organizes opposition when elected officials or state/city agencies ignore local residents. (One of my favorite parts).
- Provides support to elect good candidates to public office in the district
- Is an information resource for the district’s voters in numerous ways including poll site locations, election results and general information about candidates
District Leaders often work with their local political clubs to coordinate political activity. I am a proud member of Downtown Independent Democrats – lower Manhattans largest and oldest progressive, reform Democratic organization. You should join us.