For months, progressive groups in Philadelphia have been training people inspired to activism by the election of Donald Trump to run for party committeeperson. The deadline to file for that post came this week, and the anticipated surge of candidates didn’t materialize.
“Democratic committeepeople filed about the same number this year as they did last time they ran, four years ago,” said City Commissioner Al Schmidt. The number of Republican candidates dropped by a third.
Every four years, registered Republicans and Democrats in each voting precinct elect two people to serve in this entry-level post for their respective parties.
The party committeepeople, in turn, elect ward leaders, many of whom become power brokers within the party.
Here are the hard numbers: 3,267 Democrats filed to run for committee posts, only five more than in 2014. And 513 Republicans filed, down from 788 four years ago.
A deeper story?
But activists who put a lot of effort into training potential committee candidates say a different story could be hiding in the raw numbers.
It’s possible a large number of newcomers did file to run, and there was greater turnover among the party’s old guard.
Jen Devor, a committeewoman who helped train interested Democrats around the city, said she thinks that’s the best explanation for the minuscule increase in filers.
“If people that have been longtime committeepeople are not running — because maybe it’s a more competitive race this time around — that’s where I could see those numbers evening out,” she said.
I reached Alison Perelman, executive director of Philadelphia 3.0, which trained hundreds of people interested in running for committeepeople around the city.
She said she’ll wait to see more information before commenting on the numbers, because without knowing how many incumbent committeepeople filed for re-election, it’s hard to assess the potential for change in the party.
Schmidt said it seemed that the areas with the highest number of candidates were neighborhoods in the Northeast and South Philadelphia where there are contests for leadership of a given ward.
Voters will choose among the candidates who filed for committeeperson in the May 15 primary.