Last week, the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club, an all-volunteer political org that works to educate LGBT voters and elect gay-friendly candidates for public office, a “Candidate Night” meeting to endorse City Controller Alan Butkovitz’s bid for re-election, and host a PowerPoint presentation that painted a clearer picture of the state’s Democratic Party machine. Four Liberty City members who have or are currently serving as committee people also shared their experiences, explaining how working with ward leaders could help further our city’s LGBT rights.
Here, five things all LGBTers should know about Philadelphia’s ward system:
1. Bob Brady runs the Democratic Party. He’s been the chair of the party since 1986. Interesting fact: He gets elected with 80 percent of the vote in a district that is 60 percent African-American.
2. There are 69 ward leaders, chosen by the committee people. There are 66 wards, three of which have two ward leaders each. Leaders are chosen by the ward’s committee people and don’t have to live in the ward. They simply need to be registered Democrats living within city limits.
3. The wards are broken into a total of 1,687 divisions, each with two elected committee people. That means 3,374 opportunities exist for those who want to get involved in the political system at the very bottom.
4. There are three types of wards: traditional, where the ward leader directs his or her committee people to support specific candidates; progressive, where the committee people hold the power and ward leaders have little influence within the larger machine; and transitional, where younger and older voters battle for control.
5. Being a committee member gives you the chance to ensure that the candidates your ward elects care about the issues you care about. “Working with your ward leader – and other committee people – helps get our issues heard,” said Irene Benedetti (pictured, above), who asked candidates their views on LGBT issues and got her ward leader to support only LGBT-friendly candidates.
Committee people will be up for election on May 20, 2014. Interested in running? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye out for their January meeting, where they’ll talk more about how you can get email@example.com.