No, Seriously: What’s a District Leader? (Pt. 1)

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Part one in a series of guest posts from Paul Newell, answering one of the weirder questions in NY politics. Paul ran for State Assembly in 2008, and is now a Democratic District Leader in lower Manhattan. To see where District Leaders fit in the party structure, check out Chris’ awesome infographic. -Andrew


District Leader is an unpaid volunteer elected official. All formal parties in New York State are required to have at least one District Leader (DL) per Assembly District (AD). These positions are subject to primary elections every two years. This ostensibly guarantees that any party with formal status in New York State (e.g. a permanent ballot line) is democratically governed by its members. In essence, the District Leader is the representative of the party members in their district to that political party’s apparatus.

Most parties have only one DL per AD, and unify the role with that of the State Committee member – also an elected position. Democrats – being more democratic – do it a bit differently. Each district has two District Leaders, one male and one female, with the same responsibilities. This guarantees gender parity in the party hierarchy, and expands the number of positions available. There are currently 76 Democratic District Leaders in Manhattan.

In Manhattan and several other counties, DLs are separated from the State Committee position (though it is legal to hold both positions, and many do). Manhattan’s twelve Assembly Districts are divided in to between two and four “Leadership Parts” labeled A-D, each with two DLs. Thus, I am the Male Democratic District Leader for the (rather absurdly gerrymandered) Part C of the 64th Assembly District.

In Manhattan and Staten Island, District Leader elections are held on Primary Day in odd-numbered years – the next one being September 13, 2011. In most other counties they are held in even numbered years.

Tune in tomorrow for Part Two: “But What Does a District Leader Actually Do?”