Democratic Party Information
Answers to "What's the difference between the PCDO and the Democratic County Committee?" and other questions.
Information provided by Dan Preston, Princeton Township Municipal Chair
- If you’re a registered Democrat, you’re a member of the Democratic Party. In NJ, you become a Democrat by filing a Party Declaration form with the County Clerk, or by voting in any Democratic Primary election.
- The New Jersey State Democratic Party is organized by County (per Title 19 of NJ State law). In the Primary Election of every even-numbered year (e.g. June 2008), Democratic voters in each voting district choose a County Committee Man and Woman to represent them in the County party organization. The County Committee people within each municipality select a Municipal Chair and Vice Chair. [example: There are 14 voting districts within Princeton Township, each represented by a County Committee man and woman. Together, they constitute the Princeton Township Democratic Committee. They selected Dan Preston to be the Municipal Chair. In the Borough, there are 9 districts, whose committee people selected Andrew Koontz as the chair.
- Basic duties of committee people include nuts & bolts things like registering new voters, finding election board workers, serving as “challengers” on election day, GOTV (get-out-the-vote) and other campaign and election support. They also serve as delegates to the annual County Convention (usually in March), where endorsement votes are held for County, State and National offices.
- Many communities, like Princeton, also have a voluntary Democratic “club,” like the PCDO, which any registered Democrat can join. These clubs can vote to endorse candidates at all levels but have no statutory authority. The PCDO is open to all registered Democrats who pay $15 yearly membership dues. Voting privileges are reserved for Princeton Borough and Princeton Township voters, but non-residents can join as non-voting members who may join committees and take part in club activities. PCDO officers are elected by members each January. (See PCDO bylaws for more information.)
- Endorsements of local candidates are made by the Princeton Township Municipal Committee as well as the PCDO (The Borough Municipal Committee relies on the PCDO endorsement vote.) While the County Democratic Chair makes the final determination, candidates endorsed by Municipal Committees generally get to run “in the column” with the Regular Democratic Organization on the Primary ballot. Other candidates who file valid petitions are still free to run “outside the column.” The winner of the Primary runs as the Democratic candidate in November.
Running for Local Office - some basics
Serving the community as an elected official is a rewarding and enjoyable experience. If you are considering becoming a candidate, you should begin preparing well in advance of the election.
Some tips for potential candidates:
- Be prepared and motivated to serve your community: These local positions (e.g. Township Committee or Borough Council, or School Board) require many hours and willingness to focus on nitty-gritty issues. Good preparation is service on some of the many boards and commissions such as Zoning Board, Board of Health, Cable TV, Human Services and so on. Appointments are usually through the Mayor’s office (and new blood is usually welcome ... e.g. in Princeton Township, there are over 20 boards and commissions requiring a total of more than 100 citizen volunteers). Try to attend as many public meeting of your local government body as you can.
- Make yourself known and build support. Don’t expect this to happen overnight. You may encounter some inertia or resistance, but over time, a persistent, positive and enthusiastic candidate is hard to resist.
- Nuts & bolts: The next local primary is June 8, 2010. Petitions must be filed 57 days in advance (April 12). You’ll need to file a valid petition and be a registered Democrat living in the correct jurisdiction. The endorsements of the local party can be important -- see the Elections and Endorsements page. Candidates need to start talking to people and gathering support early.