The Role of a District Leader in the
Village of Hastings-on-Hudson
What are District Leaders?
"District Leaders" (the official title is "Westchester County Committeemen/women") are members of the Democratic Party who are elected or appointed to this internal party office. Two District Leaders are assigned to each Electoral District—often, but not always, the District in which they live.
Together, the sixteen District Leaders from the eight Town of Greenburgh Electoral Districts in Hastings-on-Hudson (18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 52nd, and 59th) make up the Hastings Democratic Committee. The Hastings Democratic Committee is a component committee of the Greenburgh Democratic Town Committee; Hastings District Leaders are automatically members of the Greenburgh Democratic Town Committee.
How Are District Leaders Selected?
A District Leader must stand for re-election every two years. For each two-year term, a District Leader candidate must file a nominating petition containing sufficient, valid signatures of registered Democrats living in the Electoral District in which that candidate hopes to serve. Technically, the petition will place the candidate on the ballot, however District Leader positions do not come up for a vote unless there is a primary challenge within an Electoral District. (Note: One advantage of being a registered member of a political party in New York State is that you can vote in primaries and sign party petitions, which means that you can help select the candidates who represent the party, from District Leader up to President.)
Any registered Democrat can challenge a District Leader by also collecting sufficient valid signatures on a petition in an Electoral District. If nominating petitions are certified for more than two people within the same Electoral District, the winners will be decided on the ballot of the New York State primary election in June.
If a District Leader resigns or is removed from office before a term has been completed, replacement is governed by local Committee rules, not State law. The government will not spend resources on a special election for an internal party position, nor will most political parties. Usually, as under the By-Laws of the Hastings Democratic Committee, the Chair will appoint a replacement, based on recommendations from the current District Leaders. Anyone appointed outside the regular election cycle will be up for election—and face a potential primary challenge, just like all other District Leaders—in the next year that District Leaders are elected.
What Do District Leaders Do?
District Leaders have four main functions.
The largest part of the job is "getting out the vote." Before every party primary, general election, or referendum, using publicly available voting records, District Leaders engage in various activities to reach the voters in our districts. We bring literature door to door, make telephone calls, send out mailings and emails, put up posters and signs, write and place ads in local newspapers, write letters to the editor reminding residents to vote, communicate with potential supporters via social medial, and talk to people about the candidates, issues, etc. The Hastings Democratic Committee maintains a website, Facebook page, and an email list. We host virtual meetings and events. Hastings Democrats are invited to subscribe to our communications by visiting www.hastingsdems.org.
District Leaders may host "coffees" or "meet-the-candidates" forums, either in our homes, at a local meeting place like the James V. Harmon Community Center or on a remote platform. Each of us is primarily responsible for reaching the voters in our own district—which is one reason we try to get to know Democratic voters between elections—but we all work together on community-wide efforts to get Democratic and sympathetic independent voters to the polls.
Perhaps the most important aspect of our work is interviewing and nominating candidates for local village office. Starting in November, the Hastings Democratic Committee advertises for and interviews potential candidates for Village Trustee, Village Justice, and Mayor. We try to recruit people who have been active in community affairs, even if not in the Democratic Party, for these offices.
The entire Committee, constituted as a Nominating Committee, interviews potential candidates and decides whether to endorse them and, as a result, assist in getting them on the ballot through the designating petition process. If the Democratic candidates and Village Committee agree, the Committee plans and implements their campaign strategy.
Sometimes, the Village Committee also sponsors "Issues Forums" featuring local and regional experts on especially critical problems, such as the actual impact of additional residential development on local tax revenue. Educating and informing voters about such issues is, we believe, one of the best strategies for building voter engagement and turnout.
District Leaders are expected to participate to some degree in internal "party politics," such as meetings of the Greenburgh Democratic Town Committee. The Chair of the Village Democratic Committee is automatically a member of the Executive Committee of the Greenburgh Committee. Village District Leaders all have a vote at the conventions held by the Greenburgh Committee, as well as on certain decisions made at conventions of the Westchester County Democratic Committee, such as selecting candidates for County judgeships and delegates to the State Democratic Convention. Our votes are public and part of the record of each committee.
Not all District Leaders choose to engage in internal party politics, but it is important that enough do to ensure that Hastings’ views are represented in Town, County, and State Democratic Party decisions about candidates, and that the Democratic Party platform and candidates give appropriate attention to and take good positions on issues important to Hastings-on-Hudson Democrats (such as funding the State Superfund for toxic clean-ups). Telling District Leaders your views is one way to get them transmitted to the higher levels of the Democratic Party.
Finally, Democratic District Leaders are expected to build and maintain the structure of the Democratic Party in our village. The Committee holds monthly meetings, usually at 8:00 pm on the first Wednesday of the month (except August). These meetings are usually held at the James V. Harmon Community Center, but are sometimes held via Zoom. The meetings usually have a “public” segment that registered Democrats may attend to exchange ideas and meet with elected officials. The balance of the meetings are members-only discussions of internal procedures and party strategy. Although Committee meetings are not required to be public by either State law or party rules, the Committee chooses to do so to foster communication with voters and our local leaders. To receive notices of our meetings, Hastings Democrats may send an email request to email@example.com.
The Committee may endorse candidates for Greenburgh, Westchester County, or New York State office. Before such endorsements, candidates or their representatives visit our meetings, giving us an opportunity to inform them of our views and question them on their positions.
Of course a certain amount of mundane work is associated with keeping a political party going: fund-raising and managing the bank account; preparing materials for mailings to voters or flyers to give out at the train station or petitions; organizing a party presence at village-wide events; filing financial and other statements in compliance with the election law; certifying District Leaders to the Town and County Committee chairs; etc. On Election Day, in addition to urging people to vote, District Leaders check the voting machines and voters' lists at each polling place at the beginning of the day (to make sure that they are "zero") and at the end when the results are compiled. In Hastings this is something of a ritual, but unfortunately, in many places it is necessary and important to prevent election fraud.
When Do I Contact My District Leaders?
You should never hesitate to contact any District Leader, not only with questions about where or when to register or vote, but with thoughts about topics that Democrats should include in our platform; questions about candidates' qualifications and positions on issues; or for general information about community resources and needs. As citizens who hope to make a positive difference not only in the Democratic Party, but in all aspects of our village life, we really need to understand what Hastings residents think. We would not be doing this work if we were not very interested in your ideas and concerns. The most satisfying part of being a District Leader is the one-on-one contact with constituents and whenever possible, managing to help them out. Please see the list of all Hastings District Leaders; you can request that any email to firstname.lastname@example.org be forwarded to them.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR TIME AND INTEREST!