Connecticut, along with the rest of the nation, is in the final stages of a historic election. Today, we would like to share our view on how state political parties play a major role in the outcome of elections and why it is important.
For starters, a political party is a group of people who share similar beliefs and values regarding how the government should be run and how issues facing the country or state should be solved. Similar to the rest of the nation, Connecticut has two major parties, Democrat and Republican. In addition, there are four minor parties that have become influential in the state. Political parties are organized at every level of government, from the national level right down to your local neighborhood.
State political parties are able to take action under the umbrella of the statewide organization called a “State Central Committee.” The committee structure is formed by members who adopt rules and guidelines and also elect a state Chairperson to serve as presiding officer. Along with committee members, the Chairperson helps to create, communicate and defend the party’s political policies. The Chairperson is effectively the CEO of the party. Some work as volunteers, but often they are paid by the committee to do the work of electing more of their members to public office. Often, they are the spokespersons for the party and handle all relative business and political matters.
State political parties work to solicit donations that provide vital and necessary services to help their endorsed candidates win elections. The revenue raised from party donors is used to fuel and push their political agenda forward. Donations are commonly utilized for election polling, phone baking, door knocking and mailers for endorsed candidates in close races. The closer the race the greater the effort for the political parties and their volunteers. In Connecticut, on many levels, elections can be won by just a few votes. The most memorable was the first election of Joseph Courtney to Congress (CT-2). In that election, Mr. Courtney beat the incumbent Rob Simmons by 80 votes out of several hundred thousand votes cast.
Here are five major ways state political parties impact elections;
- Nominate and Run Candidate Races
Political parties are responsible for selecting candidates who will run for public office. The parties hold a convention to nominate candidates who believe in the party’s platform. These candidates represent the party’s members and help to spread the party’s message during elections. The nominations of party members are the same for Federal, State and local office. The democratic process ensues, candidates are nominated and voted upon to become the party standard bearers.
- Develop Political Party Platform
A party platform is a set of principles, goals, and strategies designed to address pressing political issues. Each party’s platform is broken down into “planks,” or declarations that speak to each specific issue. Party platforms and their planks are very important to the electoral process. They give the candidates a clear political position with which they can campaign. They give voters a sense of what the candidates believe in, the issues they think are important, and how, if elected, they will address them. People in each political party want the government’s policies to reflect their own party’s platform. These platforms can help candidates address the issues and answer questions raised throughout the campaign.
- Inform the Public
Political parties often run campaigns for candidates. During campaigns, political parties run television and digital ads, distribute pamphlets, post blogs and help candidates give speeches. All of this media helps people understand what the political issues are and how government works. Parties take stands on issues and at times may criticize the points of view of other parties. These well-publicized discussions are aimed to help inform citizens on important issues.
- Coordinate National, State and Local Races
Most members of government on local, state, or the national level are associated with a major party. A party often links its members at different levels of government to achieve their set goals. Legislative representatives usually support their party’s position when considering potential laws and policies, and when a vote isn’t unanimous it often falls along party lines. The elected members of the party connect on all levels. It is not uncommon for a local town council member to run for State Senator or State Representative. And it is equally common for state candidates to run for higher federal office. The local parties are in a sense ‘a farm team’ of sorts to elevate and elected their members to higher office.
- Gain and Maintain Majority
The most powerful political party is the one that has the most members elected in public office. This metric, as well as others, is used to determine the effectiveness of a political party. It is also a benchmark of success to role of the party chairperson. Winning in politics is the only position that matters. There is no second place. Winning determines the course of action that will come from new governmental policies that the majority supports. The minority party of any legislative body works hard to oppose the majority party and keep it in check. Depending on the minority party’s strength, the majority may need to compromise with the minority before a law or resolution will pass. In this way the opposing party protects the interests of its own party supporters. This may also occur when the governor and the majority of the state general assembly are from different parties.
A well organized and funded state political party can play a vital role to the success of candidates and elections. Political parties serve as a great resource for candidates across federal, state and local levels that work to unify and mobilize support. The stronger the party, the better chance of gaining or maintaining a majority and ensuring success.
Fun Fact: DNB Lobby’s founding partner, Chris DePino, was Chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party for seven years, holding the title from 1996 to 2003. In his tenure as Chairman, Mr. DePino raised nearly $12 million for his efforts, the most ever.