By William Lewis
New York State election law recognizes two committees as representing a political party: the County Committee and the State Committee.
Here in Queens and adjoining counties, we have a number of political clubs, particularly within the Democratic Party. These clubs, although not recognized by the state authorities as political entities in a legal sense, contribute much to the political activities of their party. It is usually the Assembly district leader who is instrumental in creating clubs, which are usually named after the Assembly district, the town that they are in, or in some cases, former elected officials.
Most clubs meet on a monthly basis and have a roster of elected officers, including chairman, vice chairman, secretary, treasurer and whoever else may be needed to run the organization. People join the club because they are interested in politics or they want to work for political candidates. It seems that they also want to join a political club to meet people of similar backgrounds and ideals. They might be looking for jobs or special assistance from elected officials.
It is advantageous for elected officials to have a working relationship with political clubs. During political campaigns, club members can be used for a variety of campaign jobs, including sending out mailings, telephone banking and greeting people at shopping centers to encourage them to vote for the political club’s candidates.
Most political clubs support the candidates, whoever they might be. However there are times when there are primaries where the insurgent candidate may be challenging the candidate supported by the party’s county organization. In that case, there are sometimes political clubs that support the insurgent candidate against the county’s candidate.
This happens in all political parties. In past years it has occurred in the Democratic Party since they have had a lot of clubs in Queens and in the surrounding counties. But it has also occurred in the Republican, Conservative and Liberal parties. When that happens, different petitions are circulated by club members in accordance with which candidate they are supporting.
Most elected officials try to have a good working relationship with the clubs in their area. When election time comes, these elected officials will look to the clubs for support.
Political clubs have been around a long time and have been prevalent in Queens and contributed much to the political activities in New York City. Without these clubs, political activities would be considerably different from what they are today. When political clubs are having their meetings, it is a usual practice to invite elected officials as guest speakers who also use this opportunity to confer with club leaders and their members.
Political clubs are the grassroots of political activity that goes on constantly. Some of our highest elected officials began their careers as club members and advanced to become club officers before running for elected office. A significant number of public official staff members also come from clubs in their area. Here in New York City the political club is an integral part of the political system. It has contributed much to the politics of our day.