Vibrant Local Party Organizations

An announcement in my local weekly brightened my day on Friday.  Both local parties here announced upcoming meetings.  Nor normally the kind of thing to cause excitement, but for fans of political parties it was heartening.

I’ve posted before on the energy surrounding Republicans in this part of Cranberry Country.  Unusually, in this past Friday’s Sandwich Enterprise, the Sandwich Democratic Town Committee had the lengthier notice, announcing a series of lectures for the fall of interest to anyone interested in local public policy issues and contemporary politics.  Democrats in Sandwich were, until recently, playing catch up with the Sandwich Republicans, a well-organized and well oiled machine that remains incredibly active in town.  In last week’s announcement, the local GOP simply noted an upcoming meeting. 

Local party organizations struggle, particularly during off years such as this and when much of the political oxygen is focused on national candidates competing in distant primary states.  A party official once told me that about 1/3 of the local committees in Massachusetts were fairly moribund.  Local Democratic leaders in South Coast cities lamented that during the 2008 Obama-Clinton primary fight, neither national campaign reached out to them for organizational assistance in the state.  To the extent many of the local committees on both sides have meetings, they are less than interesting venues for people not already involved.  They could learn a lot from the activity here on Cape Cod. 

There is something about the ocean breeze here in Sandwich that keeps people active.  Both local committees maintain a strong presence and one result is competitive elections at all levels.  And a strong bench.  Both parties had strong candidates for State Representative in last year’s open seat: Republican Randy Hunt went to the State House and, after his defeat, Democrat Lance Lambros now serves as the District Representative for Representative William Keating, who himself turned back a strong challenge from the current chair of the Sandwich Republican Committee and then state representative Jeff Perry.  Randy Hunt has emerged as a well liked and thoughtful legislator and the local Democrats may find it difficult to recruit someone to run against him but they’ll be critical to Senate President Therese Murray’s reelection efforts, particularly if she is again challenged by Sandwich Republican Tom Keyes.

Sandwich’s two party organizations have found a way to keep people involved with their organizations.  They fulfill a much-needed civic function through their partisan efforts and they are to be applauded and, I hope, emulated across the state.

About Peter Ubertaccio

Peter Ubertaccio is the Director of Joseph Martin Institute for Law & Society at Stonehill College in Easton and Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science & International Studies. His work focuses on political parties, marketing and institutions. He received his Ph.D. in Politics from Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. Professor Ubertaccio and his family live on Cape Cod where he is on the Board of Directors of the OpenCape Corporation and the Sandwich Economic Initiative Corporation.
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