Upper West Side's Power Depends on Democratic Vote for Governor
By Joan Paylo, Dem. District Leader from Community Free Democrats, Inc.
[This article originally appeared in the C.F.D. newsletter and has been edited to eliminate local references.]
The number of votes that are cast for Governor on the Democratic Line at pollsites on the Upper West Side on November 2 will determine clubs' actual voting power for the next four years. It's that simple. We must all vote on the Democratic Line, and persuade our neighbors to do the same.
If people vote for Cuomo on any other party's ballot line, including the Working Families Party line, it will weaken our influence in what could be crucial votes locally and even statewide. In fact, because some local voters thought it would be nice to vote "for the same candidates anyway" on the WFP line, we in the 67th and 69th ADs lost some power within the party, in terms of weighted votes, last time around.
State and County Democratic Party rules weight a district's votes, based on the number of Democratic votes cast for Governor every four years. This weighting has consequences in the following instances:
1. County Committee votes when filling a vacancy for the US House of Representatives, State Senate and State Assembly. Each Election District, often just a square block, has 2, 3, or 4 County Committee members. Many of you are on County Committee, the true grassroots of the Party.
2. State Committee votes at nominating conventions for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller and US Senator. State Committee is comprised of a male and a female member from each of the state's 150 Assembly Districts.
3. Supreme Court Justice nominations. As you know, delegates to the Judicial Nominating Convention are elected in the September Primary each year.
First, let's take a frank look at County Committee weighting. If, for any reason, one of our members of Congress, the State Senate, or the Assembly should not complete his or her term, the weighting of the County Committee delegation becomes all-important.
In 1992, Congressman Ted Weiss died in office, the day before the September Primary. At least a half dozen, if not a dozen, talented and qualified candidates put their names forward to replace him. Hundreds of County Committeemembers from each and every tiny Election District (ED) in the entire Congressional District met in a Convention and voted for Assemblyman Jerry Nadler to replace Weiss as the Democratic Party's nominee. It helped Jerry that the EDs supporting him had substantial weighting when votes were tallied at the Convention, because votes weren't tallied according to how many Committeemembers there were in an ED. The votes were tallied proportionally, based on how many people in each particular ED had voted for Governor on the Democratic Line in the last gubernatorial election. The same happened when candidates "ran" for the nomination to replace Jerry in the Assembly. Scott Stringer won the Democratic nomination, as did Linda Rosenthal when Scott vacated his Assembly seat to become Borough President in 2005.
That's power, derived, in part, from the number of people who voted for Governor on the Democratic Line in CFD territory. Voters can even be registered in other parties.
The same goes for State Committee. Those of us who made the trip to the Democratic Nominating Convention in Westchester County in May kvelled at the proportional voting weight that our Committeemembers from the 67th and 69th ADs carried, especially when the roll call vote for nominating Attorney General took place. The votes cast for Eric Schneiderman by Debra Cooper, Arthur Greig, Larry Hirsch and Lynn Thomas counted for more than votes cast by, say, some upstate AD that may have covered two or three counties!
Yet our State Committeemembers will tell you that their weighting has dropped somewhat in recent years because not everyone chooses to vote for Governor on the Democratic Line.
The number of delegates that an Assembly District sends to the County Judicial Nominating Convention also depends on the vote for Governor on the Democratic Line.
In my third year as Democratic District Leader, I spent a good deal of Election Day 2006 outside PS 163, the largest polling site in Manhattan, where people from Park West Village and former Mitchell-Lamas vote. For weeks I'd been writing and distributing building letters and talking up our candidates at street fairs and on street corners. As a dutiful Democratic District Leader, I had worked hard to find good workers to staff the polls. My peeps were really pumped to vote for Eliot Spitzer for Governor for a long list of reasons, especially to have a strong Democrat to dethrone George Pataki and build a Democratic majority in the Albany Senate. CFDers, out for much of the day, worked as hard as we could to hand out our palm cards and greet our neighbors by name.
But up the block, a larger number of paid workers coming in shifts from the WFP were also handing out their palm cards and talking to voters. I was devastated when so many of my "peeps" came out of the polls, smiled at me and say, "Don't worry I voted for your man!" Then they said, innocently, that they had voted on the WFP line. We had failed to explain why voting for Spitzer wasn't enough; that voting for him on OUR line was all-important. Our peeps had been picked off.
In those days of the Washington entrenchment of George Bush, voting with "working families" made an emotional statement for many Westsiders. It's true that the WFP must get 50,000 votes statewide to remain an official party, as they've been since 1998. The WFP has a point when they contend that Upstate and out on Long Island, people vote for "Working Families" who would never pull a Democratic Lever. But I want us to act locally, NOT globally here. In 2006, the WFP received 155,000, three times what they needed. THIS year, I believe, we grassroots Dems on the Upper West Side need some of those votes back.
I consider the WFP and the unions who support them my strong allies on every day but one, and that is Election Day every four years when the governorship is up for grabs.
This is my mantra: Vote for Andrew Cuomo for Governor on the Democratic Line.