Editor, The Spotlight:
As long-time Democrats and regular voters, for many years we have proudly supported Democrats running for office in Bethlehem. Recently, we’ve had the uncomfortable feeling that our party needs to work harder at listening to its members and encouraging broad and diverse participation in the political process. The citizens of the town have twice elected good candidates for supervisor who were not the Democratic Committee’s choice. With serious issues facing Bethlehem, we need more candidates and elected officials who will focus on the town’s best interests, engage in open and respectful discussion of issues and work constructively towards solutions.
Like us, many Democrats may not know how the slate of local candidates is chosen and how to get involved in that process. Unless there is a primary, the Bethlehem Town Democratic Committee picks candidates. A new group, Bethlehem Reform Democrats, is working to encourage ordinary Democratic voters to serve on the Democratic Committee and support a more open and cooperative approach to governing. For more information, visit bethlehem-reform-democrats.org.
There are two committee persons for each of 31 election districts within the Town of Bethlehem. Their responsibilities combine grassroots community organizing with participation in Democratic Party decision-making: attending town and county Democratic Committee meetings; obtaining voter signatures on nominating petitions; assisting with campaign and get out the vote efforts; attending and promoting fundraisers; and most of all, listening to their neighbors’ concerns and bringing them to the town and county committees.
Gathering signatures in June is a key step in becoming a committee member. Usually between 10 and 30 signatures are required from registered Democrats in your election district. If one or two people in an election district submit valid petitions, they become committee members. If more than two submit petitions, their names are placed on the Sept. 11 Democratic primary ballot as candidates for committee person, and the highest vote-getters are elected for the two year term.
But these elections are rare. Usually there is no contest. And if no one gathers petition signatures in a particular district, the current committee leaders pick its committee members.
This is an opportunity for regular voters to get involved. If you support openness, real community representation, respect, cooperation and a bottom-up, issue-driven process for the Bethlehem Town Democratic Committee, please consider getting involved as a Democratic committee person.
John and Peggy Sherman