A few years ago I got a call from a friend running for district leader. I don't want to mention names or even genders, as it's not important to this post.
S/he was concerned that s/he would lose because the opponent was well-known for an annual turkey giveaway in the community, and other social service related activities. My advice was to not run for the "Community Social Worker" but to educate the masses about what a district leader does, and make sure they remember who helped them understand what exactly they were voting for. (and by the way, that's not a pot shot at social workers; I love them and they do much-needed work)
Fast forward a few years and as I read literature and speak to candidates running for district leader, it seems that a lot hasn't changed. So as my first non-comment blog post on Room 8, I thought I would share some of my thoughts about how to pick a district leader, and hope others will contribute to my list and share it with others. FULL DISCLOSURE: I originally compiled a version of this list for the Democratic Club of North Brooklyn. I altered it to be non-party specific so it can have broader use.
WHAT IS A DISTRICT LEADER?
The District Leader is an un-paid elected official who performs a valuable set of duties on behalf of his or her political party. Each district gets to elect two district leaders, one male and one female, with the same responsibilities. The district leader serves a two-year term.
WHAT ARE THE DUTIES OF THE DISTRICT LEADER?
- Hires poll workers and election inspectors for the primary elections every September and the general elections in November.
- Attends party meetings and events on behalf of the district
- Listens to the registered party members 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 registered party members a strong, unified voice
- Works closely with the district’s city, state, and federal elected officials from the party to insure that the voices of the district’s party members are heard
- Provides support to elect party members to public
office in the district
- Is an information resource to the district’s voters in numerous ways including poll site locations, election results, and general information about candidates representing the party
WHAT QUALITIES AND RESOURCES DOES A DISTRICT LEADER NEED?
A district leader knows his or her district, including, but not limited to:
- Boundaries of the district
- Polling sites for election day
- Voter turnouts from past elections
- Current elected officials serving the district, regardless of party affiliation
- Government resources such as police, fire, EMS, and sanitation
- Social service, community and economic development resources
- Neighborhood associations; community boards
- Schools, from Pre-K to colleges or satellite college sites and other educational programs
WHAT ELSE MAKES A GOOD DISTRICT LEADER?
He or she:
- Enjoys working with people and has excellent organizational skills
- Knows how to listen to the concerns of the district and takes the information to elected officials on the city, state, and federal level
- Brings back information from city, state, and federal elected officials to let the party members of the district know their concerns are being listened to and being acted on
- Believes in the party’s principals and is committed to electing party candidates in each election
- Attends meetings in the district and on behalf of the district
- Is visible in the community and easy to reach by the average voter in the district
- Can raise money for the party especially to support GOTV activities
- Knows how to spread the ideals of the party and conduct activities to recruit new members
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK SOMEONE RUNNING FOR DISTRICT LEADER?
Here are some of the most important ones to ask:
- How well known are you in the district?
- Are you accessible to answer my questions?
- What is your relationship with current party members elected to city, state, and federal positions here in the district?
- Do you have any endorsements from these elected officials?
- Do you have experience in hiring and training poll workers?
- What do you know about the district’s registered voters? Its polling sites? Past election results?
- Do you have the time, energy, and know-how to organize the party members of the district? What experience do you have doing this?
- How would you go about gathering information from district party members and delivering the info to current elected officials serving the district?
- What do you know about accessing the district’s social services? Schools and PTAs? Police, Fire, EMS and Sanitation supervisors? Community Boards? Neighborhood associations?
- Are you familiar with the party’s principals, and how they relate to party members here in the district?
- Can you raise money for the party and what is your past experience in doing so?
WHY DON'T I SEE "DISTRICT LEADER" ON THE BALLOT IN THE PRIMARY OR GENERAL ELECTION?
For starters, the term district leader is a nickname. You have to look for “Candidate for (Male/Female) Member of the (party name) State Committee” on the ballot when you vote in September.
You won’t see it in November’s general election—you’ll only see it on the ballot every other year (the even years) in the September primary election.
Thanks for reading!
Brooklyn, New York
"Más vale morir luchando, que vivir muriendo."