Party Committees (Generally)
The Democratic Party (and all parties, really) are broken up into three levels, or Committees - National, State and County. And it's a little known fact that, at each level, registered Party Members (in this case Democrats) have elected representatives that help run the party.
Unlike public elected officials that run the government, Party officials are elected in primaries. So think about that - when you're mad at what a Party is doing and wondering why it can't get it's act together, you could join it an elect its leadership!
Democratic State Committee members represent the Democrats in their district to the State Democratic Party. During their two year term, State Committee Members act as delegates at the annual State Party meetings and bi-annual Conventions.
The role of State Committee Members isn't grand, but it can be important. They have three main jobs:
1. Vote to endorse candidates for statewide office
If a candidate for Statewide office (Governor, Lt. Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General) is endorsed by the State Committee, he/she doesn't have to petition!
For those of you who aren't familiar with politics you're probably like "so what?". But don't worry, a later post will address the wonder and horror that is the petitioning process. One step at a time.
2. Elect At-Large delegates and Alternate Delegates to National Conventions
Remember the Bernie Sanders Nevada thing? That. Luckily, in NY, we spare ourselves a lot of trouble by apportioning all delegates by the percentages of the primary. The State Committee can only select who will physically cast those votes. In Nevada, the State Committee actually adds new delegates to one side or the other.
3. Write the Sate Party’s platform
What do Democrats actually believe? It's decided here. For example, during NY State's epic row over Hydrofracking, Rachel Levine, the current State Committeewomen for the 66th AD (mine), led an epic charge to add a fracking ban to party platform after the Governor (the nominal head of the Democratic Party) tried to table the issue.
Candidates who don't abide by the Party platform may run into trouble with earning the Party's endorsement (see 1).
4. Serve as liaison between the community and the Democratic Party/Elected officials.
Closer to home, State Committee Members are tasked with keeping the people in their districts apprised of what the Democratic Party is doing at the State level. District Leaders (bascially the State Committee Members of the County) do the same for the local Party.
State Committee Members also work with the local Democratic State representatives (Assembly and Senate) and are a way for citizens to move their issues up the political ladder.
5. Elect the Leadership of the State Democratic Party.
The State Committee has a regular meeting at least once each year. Who runs the party when the Committee isn't in session? That task is left to the State Executive Board, the members of which are elected by the State Committee.
If the Governor is a Democrat, he or she functions as the head of the party. Otherwise this spot is filled by election. But even when the Governor is a Democrats, these elections can prove important.
For example, former New York City Councilmember Christine Quinn was just elected Vice-Chair of the State Party, which was controversial in the more liberal wings of the Party. Additionally, the leaders of the party Chair the State Party meetings. Recently, a meeting of the NY State Delegation to the National Convention turned contentious when those Chairing the meeting didn't see eye-to-eye with large numbers of delegates.