Open Seat Project: We Did It!

When you join the Manhattan Young Democrats, there is never a shortage of ways to get involved. Whether your focus is on an issue, a candidate or the party, we provide opportunities to join committees, create campaigns and make your positions heard.  In the end, it’s always the work of those who volunteer that make the campaigns as successful as they are.

One of our projects that exemplifies that strength and now has become a bi-annual tradition for MYD is the Open Seat Project. Beginning in 2009, The Open Seat Project was created to address our concern that hundreds of seats within the New York County Democratic Party structure remained vacant year after year. The position we’re specifically speaking about is that of county committee person: a two year unpaid term representing one of hundreds of election districts through out the borough. We decided that by recruiting members to run for these seats we would be carrying out our mission to strengthen local participation in the Democratic Party and ensure our leaders are responsive to the issues that are important to young people.

Open Seat Volunteer Dan Lewkowicz

The Open Seat team recruited members to consider running while simultaneously creating working partnerships with county leaders within the individual assembly districts that cover parts of Manhattan.  This year, recruitment for the Open Seat Project was especially focused on recruiting women, minorities and members of the LGBT community who are drastically underrepresented in elected office. We want the Democratic party — and ultimately, the leadership of our city, state, and nation — to be more reflective of the American electorate.

CC Candidate Neha Dewan

As of midnight last Thursday, July 14th, we concluded the main thrust of this year’s project and are happy to report that 90 people submitted qualifying petitions with their respective democratic clubs to the board of elections for county committee positions. Though County Committee represents areas as small as one or two blocks, our members who heeded the call and decided to run for this political elected position gained a wealth of knowledge about campaigning and the rules governing the election process.

75th AD Part A Female District leader Mary Dorman and CC candidate Lisa Marut

Another connection we hope will remain central with the members who ran is the relationship they forged with their local democratic clubs. The roughly 35 democratic clubs throughout the borough act as the grassroots voice of our party. The district leaders and club presidents who went out of their way to work with us have been great partners.  We have built a stronger working relationship with them on policy issues facing our city and state moving forward.

Throughout this process, our team learned a great deal about how little our members (and New Yorkers in general) know about our party and our electoral system. Our experience has solidified our belief that supporting civic education as a mantle our organization needs to continue.  We must remain committed to increasing the level of participation in the public discourse, not only of our own demographic, but of our friends, family members and co-workers. In the coming months, we’ll be working on putting much of the information we learned online.

But for now: we’ve been written up in the Times and we’re excited to congratulate the 90 new Open Seat voices who earned themselves “a seat at the table” — and we’ll be toasting their efforts at our annual “Young Gets It Done” Awards ceremony in late August. And as for the rest of you who could not or did not run this year…2013 is only a short time away. Will you run?