The Bronx Democratic Party filed a roster with the New York City Board of Elections showing 17 of its county committee members lived in a six-story building at 2401 Davidson Ave., shown above, in University Heights. But some people listed as county committee members on this roster seemed confused about their role. (Sarina Trangle)
WHAT IS A COUNTY COMMITTEE?
- In New York, the most local level of party governance is the county committee.
- State law allows any large political party – one that receives at least 50,000 votes during the most recent gubernatorial election – to create county committees.
- The idea behind a county committee is that, by electing local partisan representatives to the organization, party members are able to have a say in who their party endorses, the rules that govern it and who leads it.
WHO'S ON THE BRONX COUNTY COMMITTEE?
In the Bronx Democratic County Committee, positions include:
- County committee members, the most grassroots representatives who help decide party rules and elect the leaders of the organization.
- District leaders, who are charged with overseeing affairs in an Assembly district and who are automatically part of the organization’s executive committee.
HOW DO PEOPLE GET ON A COUNTY COMMITTEE?
- County committees hold elections every two years, which coincide with primaries.
- Candidates for county committee seats must be a registered member of the political party and reside in the Assembly District that contains the election district they intend to represent, but they do not need to reside in the election district itself.
- To run, candidates must collect signatures from voters registered with the party who also reside in the election district they aim to represent.The number of signatures required varies based on how many voters are registered with the party in that area.
- District leader candidates follow the same process, but they need 500 signatures.
- It is common for county committees to petition for multiple candidates on one sheet. For example, the sheet may note that signatures are on behalf of state Senate, Assembly and internal party candidates.
- During petitioning, a witness must sign the document, swearing that he or she saw the voters sign the petition on the date indicated on the paperwork.
- Once petitioning is done, if nobody else successfully petitions for the post, the candidate automatically qualifies for the county committee or the district leader seat.
- If there are multiple qualified candidates, their names appear on the primary ballot in the election districts they’re aiming to represent, and members of that party vote to decide which candidate gets the seat.
WHAT DOES THE COUNTY COMMITTEE DO?
- After the primaries, the county organization holds an organizational meeting, and mails notices to county committee members at the addresses listed on petitions. At these meetings, the county committee members nominate and vote in members to fill vacant county committee seats. They also vote to adopt the rules adhered to by the county organization and to select the organization’s leaders, which often includes its chairperson, secretary, treasurer and vice chairpersons.
- Many organizations have rules that allow county committee members who cannot attend all or part of these meetings to vote by proxy, with the particulars varying from county to county.
- In the Bronx, many of those elected to leadership roles as well as the district leaders comprise the executive committee.
- According to the Bronx’s rules, if the borough president or district attorney resigns or cannot complete their term, the executive committee selects the Democratic nominee ahead of any special or general elections.
- If the vacancy is in a seat that covers part of the Bronx, the county committee members representing that area choose the Democratic nominee.
- The Bronx Democratic County Committee’s rules do not outline any specific process for nominating or endorsing candidates during Democratic primaries, but like most of its counterparts, the organization has backed candidates in primaries.
OCCUPANCY RATES FOR DEMOCRATIC COUNTY COMMITTEES
Many of the Bronx Democratic County Committee members appear to cluster in certain buildings and parts of Assembly districts. Under state law, this practice is perfectly proper. County committee members do not need to reside in the election district they represent – just the larger Assembly District that contains their seat. The clustering, however, likely limits representation in other parts of the Assembly District.
The 2016 Bronx Democratic County Committee roster shows:
- At least 17 county committee members live at 790 Concourse Village W. and another 13 reside in the same Concourse Village development, at 780 Concourse Village W.
- At least 13 county committee members have addresses at 801 Tilden St. in Williamsbridge.
- Concentrations of members can be seen in Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz’s district, where the bulk of the 274 county committee members had a residential address in whiter, more affluent parts of the district like Riverdale and Spuyten Duyvil. Just one member’s address was in Wakefield, a more black and middle-income community. (Dinowitz, chairman of the Bronx Democratic County Committee, said the political club he belonged to included many Riverdale residents who hold county committee seats, but that he would welcome “greater interest” from those in other parts of his district.)
In court documents, Sarah Steiner, an attorney for two Democratic incumbent candidates, contended that, after petition paperwork in the 77th Assembly District was signed by voters, she photocopied it and gave the originals to the Bronx Democratic Party. At that point, she said no county committee candidates were listed on the top of the sheet. (Page 1)
When she checked on the paperwork the party filed with the city Board of Elections, she contended she saw that two county committee candidates had been added: Vanessa Gibson, who is also a city councilwoman, and Miriam Green. (Page 2)
Steiner also said in court papers that after voters signed a different petition sheet in the 77th Assembly District that also did not include any county committee candidates, she photocopied it and gave it to the Bronx Democratic Party. (Page 3)
When she reviewed the sheet filed with the city Board of Elections, Steiner contended four county committee candidates' had been added: Rosella Gregg, Aileen Gregg, April Gregg and Kevin Gregg. (Page 4)
Patricia Jones, who is seeking to sign onto the lawsuit, said in court papers that she was elected to the county committee in 2014 and named a candidate for a seat in 2016 without her consent. Jones alleged that when she confronted her local district leader, Yudelka Tapia, about this, Tapia told her it was untrue. (Page 7)
Additionally, Jones contended Tapia texted her she would no longer get work at the polls unless she helped with petition work. A copy of the text exchange filed as evidence shows Tapia writing that Jones had "to come today to sign," referring to a piece of paper volunteers must sign before they go collect signatures on petition paperwork, or "you won't be able to work in the next 3 elections." (Page 9)