While Brooklyn Democratic leaders celebrated Councilmember-elect Steve Levin’s ceremonial inauguration at stately Borough Hall, a group of 50 Democratic activists met in a dingy first-floor room of a Williamsburg church to gain more influence within the county’s cumbersome and fractured Democratic Party.
On December 2, members of the New Kings Democrats, a North Brooklyn-based political club, organized a forum at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (334 South 5th St.) called “The Most Important Elected Official You’ve Never Heard Of,” which attracted Democrats from Bay Ridge to Jamaica, Queens.
“We have the largest county Democratic party in the state but we have the least influence in the party because we are fractured and it is designed to be that way,” said Jo Anne Simon, a Democratic District Leader from Boerum Hill.
Simon, who lost to Levin in a City Council Democratic primary this fall for the 33rd District, and Joanne Seminara, a Bay Ridge Democratic District Leader, were the featured guests at the club’s first meeting since the November election.
According to NKD Vice President Lincoln Restler, the club invited district leaders to educate its members and interested political activists about the role of Democratic District Leaders and county committee members in Brooklyn. There are typically two district leaders for each state assembly district, serving a two-year term, whose main responsibilities include hiring poll workers and election inspectors, attending party meetings, and elect the party’s county leader.
Restler hopes the district leaders might support NKD’s efforts to elect more members to the Kings County Democratic Committee in 2010.
“The onus is on all of us to create an alternative to for people to latch onto for support,” said Restler.
During an informal presentation, Simon touched on the importance of poll workers, working with other district leaders, her role interviewing judges running for office, and the challenges of running for office while the County leadership, led by Kings County Chair Vito Lopez, endorsed a rival candidate.
“Nobody voted not to endorse me, nothing came down from on high to endorse another candidate,” said Simon
Simon and Seminara advised people interested in running for office to get involved with churches, community boards, school groups and civic organizations to better know registered voters in your neighborhood.
The club has been grooming nascent members to run for county committee since New York’s 2008 presidential primary. Throughout the summer of 2008, scores of members mounted a series of small but aggressive campaigns throughout the borough.Over 50 NKD members won seats, which contributed to a disruptive county committee meeting in September 2008.
Though its members largely branched out to join a multitude of local campaigns in 2009, the club’s core members have returned, according to NKD founder Matt Cowherd, and are focused on recruiting more members to get involved in local political activism, particularly within the Kings County Democratic Party.
“We’re preparing to run, train and recruit more people for county committee and hopefully convince people to get involved in the party in Brooklyn,” said Cowherd. “I don’t expect we will receive a warm welcome, but it’s our party too.”