Manhattan Political Overview

District Leaders and County Committee Members

Political clubs generally organize within "Executive Districts," referred to as "Parts," which are areas carved out of State Assembly Districts. Each "A.D." has two to four Executive Districts, and rival clubs often battle in the September primary to elect candidates for "District Leader."

Democratic voters of each Executive District elect two District Leaders, one male and one female. These leaders help Democratic candidates get on the ballot in their area, and help get them elected at the polls.

Manhattan usually has sixty or so District Leaders, who as a group comprise the County Executive.

More than 100 years ago the County Executive went by the nickname "Tammany Hall," famed for corruption and misuse of power. Coincidentally, two of Tammany's most famous bosses, William Marcy (Boss) Tweed and George Washington Plunkett, both held leaderships in what is now the D.I.D. area.

In the early 1980's the last vestiges of Tammany were erased when reformers enacted rules in the Democratic County Committee that severely limited the power of district leaders. The D.I.D. was part of that reform make-over.

The party's rule-making body is called County Committee, and is as democratic as the rules can make it. County Committee members represent the smallest possible political area, the Election District. An Election District (called a precinct elsewhere) is essentially the area whose voters use a single voting machine on election day. An E.D. can be as small as a single large apartment building or as large as a few residential blocks.

A typical E.D. has 400 to 800 voters, never more than 1,000. From two to four County Committee members are elected from each E.D., depending on the number of registered voters in the E.D.

County Committee is therefore very large. More than one thousand committee members often show up to vote at the September meeting.

Getting on the Ballot

When a person wants to run for office as a Democrat, the candidate must first win the Democratic primary. In order to appear on the primary ballot, the candidate must file a petition carrying the signatures of a large number of Democratic voters.

The number of signatures required depends on the size of the district. A District Leader candidate, for instance, must file 500 verifiable signatures; for State Assembly, the number is 1,500. (Signing such a petition does NOT require a signer to vote for the candidate so endorsed; it is simply the voter's agreement that the person deserves to appear on the ballot.)

Political clubs are of vital importance to candidates because clubs assist with the manpower to collect signatures and get out the vote on election day. The endorsement of a political club is often the determining factor on Election Day. District leaders of clubs like the D.I.D. remind their office-holders of that support when issues arise that affect their voters and communities.