Want to have a hand in who runs for office? It’s not hard. It starts by attending a monthly county party executive committee meeting.

Love it or hate it, the current national administration has people fired up for democracy. There are lots of ways to get involved in the 2018 midterm election season, and most of us know some of them: You can sport yard signs for your favorite candidates, canvass door to door for them, donate to their campaigns, hold house parties to solicit others’ donations, and vote for them.

But if you’re thinking about getting more involved than usual, there’s one way you may not have been aware of: You can strengthen your party and local democracy more directly by serving on your party’s Monongalia County executive committee.

What the executive committees do

The Democratic and Republican county party executive committees are the local arms of the party “machines,” the national party frameworks. They operate under the auspices of the state parties, which themselves run under the auspices of the national parties.

At the county level, the party executive committees encourage people to run for positions like sheriff, county clerk, and county commissioner. They train candidates and support them in their campaigns. “We mostly stay out of primaries, because we would never favor one Democrat over another,” says Monongalia County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Kelly Palmer. She’s been involved with the executive committee for 25 years and has served as chairman for 10. “But beyond the primary, we assist in any way that the candidates need help.”

The executive committees also work to increase voter registration and participation. And they hold fundraisers to raise money for general county party functions, including advertising campaigns, and to pay pollworkers.

“We may go to chamber of commerce events and talk about upcoming elections or the most recent election and so on,” says Monongalia County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Virginia Brown. She moved here with her husband from California in 2014, immediately got involved with the county executive committee, and was soon appointed to lead the committee. “We participated recently in the recycling day over at the Walmart and wore our t-shirts and helped people— we’re getting more involved in things that bring us visibility.”

Running and serving

There are a lot of opportunities to participate on the party executive committees. Each one has 24 elected members—that’s one female and one male representative from each of 12 geographic districts in the county. Those members are elected fresh every four years in the midterm primaries—next in May 2018.

In addition, each has an executive board consisting of a chairman, first and second vice chairmen, a secretary, and a treasurer. Board members are not elected, but appointed by the elected members of the committee.

A good candidate for an elected seat or an appointed position is someone who would like to be more closely involved in the political process but doesn’t necessarily want to be out front as a candidate, Palmer says.

And the committees encourage people to get involved who want to put in some time. “We’re looking for people who have the time to volunteer, not just show up at meetings, someone who’s going to participate and want to make a difference in the political scene in Morgantown, Monongalia County, and the state,” Brown says. “And we’re going to draw from those people for officers, maybe for open slots in the West Virginia GOP to represent the county, and there are many opportunities for county committees to send people to Charleston.”

The executive committees look for people who support their state party’s platforms. “The bottom line across the spectrum of politics, whether you’re independent or whatever, we all want the same things: We want good roads, good jobs, good incomes, good health care,” Brown says. “Where we differ primarily is how to get it. We do not require that everybody be lockstep ideologically, but we want to make sure the people who come with us on our committee are going to sway with us on our ideological meter.”

If you’re intrigued

Attending a party executive committee meeting is a good way for anyone to understand the inner workings of our democracy at a deeper level. Meetings are open to registered members of the parties.

If you find you’re interested in getting more involved, talk with members and the chairman. You can angle for one of those appointed executive board offices, which will turn over after the May 2018 election. Or to run for an elected seat in May, download the Candidate’s Certificate of Announcement form from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website and file it with the Monongalia County Clerk between January 8 and January 27, 2018.

In any case, plan to vote on May 8.

The Monongalia County Republican Executive Committee meets the second Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Eat’n Park at 353 Patteson Drive. @moncountygop on Facebook

The Monongalia County Democratic Executive Committee meets the second Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Hall at 100 Richard Avenue, across from Mountainview Elementary School. @mcdec on Facebook

Pam Kasey
Written by Pam Kasey
Pam Kasey has traveled, brewed, farmed, counseled, and renovated, but most loves to write. She has degrees in economics from the University of Chicago and in journalism from West Virginia University. She loves celebrating Morgantown and West Virginia as executive editor at New South Media.