The New Kings Democrats (NKD) held a meeting on Sunday about “Rep Your Block,” a movement they’ve created to educate Brooklynites about how to become a part of their county committee.
The meeting, held at the Pakistani American Youth Society Center, 1001 Newkirk Avenue, featured a presentation delivered by NKD President Brandon West, Assemblymember Robert Carroll and Democratic District Leader candidate Doug Schneider. The three of them worked together to explain what a county committee is, why it’s so important to the political process, and how attendees can get involved with theirs.
“Our goal is to let people know that [the county committee] exists, and that it gives them an opportunity to engage with their party,” said West. “The county committee is really the ground floor of participation in the Democratic Party here in Brooklyn.”
Carroll said it’s very, very important that the Democratic Party have people out in the community representing their block and being engaged.
As they explained, a county committee is a governing body that presides over the county. Its executive body consists of one party chair, one male district leader and one female district leader for each assembly district; the former position is appointed by the latter two. The county committee also includes a lower house comprised of two to four representatives for each “election district”, a unit that encompasses a few city blocks within an assembly district.
The committee serves to select local judicial candidates, select assembly and state senate candidates for special elections, and help structure the Democratic Party platform, among other functions.
“In a nutshell, it is the smallest unit of how the Democratic Party organizes itself,” said Carroll. “It has a big role in selecting special election candidates for the assembly and the state senate, so it’s very important.”
Furthermore, said Carroll, the positions are open to anyone who wants to run.
“If anyone here wants to be on my committee, they are more than welcome,” said Carroll. “We would be more than willing to have you rep your block, or maybe an adjacent block.”
West said that there are plenty of vacant seats in the lower house of the county committee, since it’s such a little-known part of the political process. The Rep Your Block movement, he said, was created to fill that void by making Brooklyn residents aware of the power they can wield as a member of this committee, and providing them with a simple, straightforward way to join.
“A lot of the seats in the county committee aren’t filled,” said West. “Most people don’t know who the county committee is, or they don’t think that it’s something that they necessarily want to get involved in…so our campaign is directed towards everyday Brooklynites, encouraging them to run for county committee, tell their friends about the county committee, get involved with their party and become a part of this process.”
Schneider added that the county committee is a vital component of party building and reform – which he said Brooklyn’s Democratic Party desperately needs right now.
“The Brooklyn Democratic Party is a remnant of Tammany Hall,” said Schneider. “It has been run by party bosses, and it operates as a machine. And because Brooklyn is essentially a one-party borough, there has never been a need for party building, because it doesn’t take much effort for a Democrat to get elected. And because of that, the party is rife with corruption.”
Schneider went on to point out that Brooklyn’s Democratic membership is overwhelmingly huge; if mobilized, the Brooklyn Democrats could even influence elections beyond their borough.
“Seventy-five percent [of Brooklynites] are enrolled in the Democratic Party,” said Schneider. “That’s about 1.4 million Democrats. If even a fraction of those Democrats were organized, energized and activated, we could go to Staten Island and beat [U.S. Rep.] Dan Donovan. We could go to Long Island for Liuba Gretchen Shirley. There are opportunities being missed.”
For those interested in getting involved with the county committee, the NKD will be holding a petitioning training session this Sunday, May 27, at 138 S Oxford Street from 1-3 p.m.