The NJ Democratic Party may seem like a “black box,” but it actually has an organizational structure that is similar to that of state government: There are municipal committees which are nested within county committees, and all of the county committees are nested within the state committee. These committees have by-laws that govern what they do and when they do it. Among the key things they do is get together periodically to vote on party matters, such as who should lead the party or who gets their endorsement when more than one Democrat is running for a particular office.
But who are the members of these committees, and how do they get their positions? This is where it gets interesting.
Each committee has an executive group made up of a “chairperson” plus several other positions, such as vice chair, treasurer, and so forth. These individuals are either appointed by other powerful people in the party or are voted into their positions by the rank-and-file committee members.
The rank-and-file, however, are a different matter. They are made up of people who may be appointed, but who are otherwise elected to their positions by you and me on election day.
- The lowest-level positions are the county committee seats – set up so that two such seats, sometimes reserved for opposite genders, represent each voting district in each municipality. People who take these seats get to be members of both the local municipal committee and the county committee. In some counties, large numbers of these seats are left vacant for no good reason than that people do not think to pursue them.
These rank-and-file positions have considerable power when they are occupied by like-minded people in large enough numbers: By determining who gets endorsed and who gets to lead them, their voices can have a ripple effect up the chain of command to influence party decision-making at the national level. But, to get to that critical mass, people need to think to run for these positions. And, the good news is that, under certain circumstances, many of these positions can be successfully pursued with just a few key steps and small amount of effort.