Young Politicos Navigate the Legislative Landscape Through Political Clubs
By Clifford Michel
Wednesday evening on June 18, in the back room of a small bar near Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, several young adults traded jokes and discussed names such as Lori Boozer, Kimberly Council, Steve Cymbrowitz, and Erik Martin Dilan—names that usually bring about head scratches during causal discussion. But for members of the Brooklyn Young Democrats, these names represented the future of New York State’s legislature and participants had a role in deciding whether or not they should endorse the politician.
“When there’s a particular issue that affects them, people begin to realize that the elected officials in office are truly responsible for the decisions that govern their lives,” said Ashley Emerole, President of the Manhattan Young Democrats. “In 2010, many members of the LGBT community joined the Manhattan Young Democrats to ensure that was passed. Other years there have been candidates, such as Barack Obama. So people who were looking to funnel their interest, or just curiosity in politics, joined.”
On the national stage, legislators often turn to large companies to provide donations in order to pay for advertisements. But on the state and local levels, candidates turn to political clubs as often as they turn to unions and large activist groups.
The clubs provide tremendous support for rallying voters with resources that many local politicians do not have. The groups gather signatures from voters in the districts in order to get candidates on the ballot before Election Day and aid in essential “get out the vote” campaigns.
Even in a state as blue as New York, minority parties still have clubs to make sure their party has a voice in the state legislature and congress.
In Brooklyn, where there is only one republican State Senator, the Brooklyn Young Republicans tend to throw their support to upstart republican candidates who challenge local democratic incumbents. Their efforts often prove difficult but can also be essential.
This has been the case for the race between Congressman Michael Grimm and Domenic Recchia. The Brooklyn Young Republicans regularly support Rep. Grimm, but polls have shown Recchia closing in. It’s situations like these where local support can make or break a politician come November 4.
Between planning, recruiting, and helping out candidates, there is never truly a moment of inactivity within a political club. The thought of a room full of impassioned politicos sounds daunting initially, but the true atmosphere of a political club borders on familial.
“I was someone in college who didn’t know who I was affiliated with, but I definitely knew where I stood on certain issues. So I always open the floor for discussion, whether for local or national issues that are on our members mind. At first some people don’t want to get too involved. Even if someone only wants to come to socials, that’s fine with us,” said Diana Sepulveda, President of the Brooklyn Young Republicans. “We’re an avenue for young Republicans who want to be social and want to speak their minds.”
The clubs often provide an informal support system for those who are interested in breaking into the world of politics. The Brooklyn Young Republicans’ Vice President, is currently working on Michael Grimm’s campaign as well as with another member, Russell Gallo, whom is a popular figure on Blog Talk Radio.
The narrative plaguing political clubs hasn’t changed in decades. In a 1989 New York Times article by Frank Lynn entitled “Political Clubs: Power Is Only a Memory,” analyzed the loss of prominence that political clubs once held.
“Many clubs that were once centers of their communities – providing help to the poor and other services that government now provides – have been forced by rising rents and falling dues and influence to retreat to cramped and seedy storefronts. Some have given up their quarters altogether and now meet at community centers or elsewhere, often a sign that a club is about to lose its identity and disappear,” the article mused.
Political clubs may no longer be able to bend politicians to their liking with the promise of an endorsement but the fervor and hopeful attitude, however, is still very much alive.
“It’s a shame how many people are not even aware of who their congress person is. The more people that are aware, the more people can make a change,” said Emerole. “And that’s regardless of political affiliation, just looking at it from a democratic point of view.”