Schenectady County’s two main political parties are awakening long-dormant social clubs, hoping to recharge and expand their memberships.
Republicans resurrected the Schenectady GOP Club on Wednesday, drawing approximately 40 people to an organizational meeting, most of them “fresh faces,” said Tom Buchanan, chairman of the Republican Committee.
The Schenectady County Young Democrats will hold its first meeting Tuesday in more than four years. The meeting is set for 8 p.m. at the Ancient Order of Hibernians Hall.
To Buchanan, the interest in the political process is refreshing. “There is too much apathy out there, so this is good,” he said.
Buchanan said the GOP Club has an illustrious history, beginning 75 years ago. It served as a mechanism to recruit new members and help promote the party’s image in the community. Buchanan plans to continue these activities, holding monthly meetings as well as special events. The club plans to waive its annual dues to encourage people to join, he said.
“We have got to put the pieces back together and rebuild the party. This is a necessary component of rebuilding the party,” Buchanan said.
Republicans lost control of the Schenectady County Legislature to Democrats in 2003 after 37 years in power. Democrats dominate city politics to a point that Republicans could not mount a strong challenge for mayor and City Council and for county legislative seats last November. A county judge is Republican; all other countywide offices are held by Democrats.
Republicans, however, remain strong in Rotterdam and the hill towns and are working to retake control of Glenville, which they long controlled but lost to Democrats several years ago.
Buchanan said the club’s first special event is scheduled Tuesday at Scarborough’s Restaurant to watch live returns of the Republican presidential primary. “Republicans from across Schenectady are welcome to join us at our free event,” he said. “There will be plenty of good food and great political conversation.” Several state and local elected Republican officials are expected to attend, he said.
Buchanan said anyone can attend a function, but only Republicans may join the club. “Independents are more than welcome to come,” he said, adding with a laugh that every effort will be made to get them to enroll as Republican.
David Fronk, 24, is an organizer of the Young Democrats. He said he is starting the club to get more young people involved in the political process. “We are planning a series of social events to help people network, education events and efforts to get them involved in the election process,” he said. “By involving young people in campaigns and elections, we train a whole new generation of civic leaders.”
The club can’t endorse candidates in primaries, Fronk said. “It is more about getting them informed.”
The club is open to people ages 16 to 35; the age guidelines are set by the Young Democrats of America. Once the local club reaches 25 members, it can obtain a state charter. Approximately 10 people are involved in the club currently, but Fronk expects that number to increase. “The group joins the growing youth movement in politics,” he said.
The youth vote in 2006 played a critical role in Democrats capturing Congress for the first time in 12 years, Fronk said. “This year, the youth vote has more than doubled from 2004 Primary elections in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina,” he said.
Fronk works as director of operations for the Schenectady County Legislature. Democrats hired him last June after he graduated from UAlbany with a degree in political science.
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