Citizen Activism, Voting = Resistance

Report on Resistance Leadership Summit

On Saturday, July 8th, the Resistance Leadership Summit was held in Hudson. It was a gathering of activists from Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Sullivan, and Rensselaer counties, representing many Indivisible affiliated groups, Citizens Action, Democratic county committees, and elected officials. Presentations were given by local officials and organizers, and smaller breakout sessions on a variety of topics were featured.

Assemblywoman Didi Barrett was the excellent introductory speaker. In her talk, she stressed the following: the Democrat who runs against Rep. Faso needs to campaign on local issues of concern to the people in our district, Democrats need to win in this November’s elections, and protesting is important, but GOTV is even more important so we can flip seats in 2017 and 2018.

The chair of the Columbia County Democratic Committee talked about local candidate campaigning. Door-to-door canvassing is crucial, phone banking is less effective than it used to be, and getting people out to vote is key.

A talk on ReclaimNY, given by two lawyers, was truly alarming. ReclaimNY was founded by Rebekah Mercer and Steve Bannon, is funded by Robert Mercer, Paul Singer and other extreme right-wing billionaires, and aims to push a far-right agenda. They have already made inroads on the ground in CD-19. There is an activist group following them, going to their meetings, and challenging their agenda. ReclaimNY is targeting and harassing Town Clerks and Supervisors, who need to be made aware of the group’s true motives.

This November, there is a ballot initiative on holding a NY Constitutional Convention. The speakers on this issue feel that ReclaimNY and conservatives are in favor of a convention, so that they can rewrite the state’s Constitution to enact their agenda. Therefore, the correct vote is no, and we need to get the word out to our voters.

In a conversation with a local government official, the point was made that that it’s essential to run candidates against all of the Republican local officials. Many have never been forced to actually campaign and debate the issues, because they often don’t have an opponent. Finding people to run is difficult, as we know, but needs to be a goal.

One of the small discussion groups was about organizing a concerted effort to get Democratic second homeowners registered to vote in CD-19. Town property records are available online, and the Democratic voter registry, known as VAN, can be used to check each second homeowner’s voter registration. Even if only a fraction of second homeowners in a town decide to re-register and vote here, it can make a huge difference in local elections which are sometimes decided by less than ten votes.

In summary, important takeaways from the Summit were:

  • Concentrate on GOTV and winning local elections. The groundwork we build in 2017 will set the stage for 2018.
  • Be aware of ReclaimNY efforts in your community
  • Make voters aware they need to vote No on the Constitutional Convention ballot initiative
  • Organize an effort to get Democratic second homeowners registered to vote locally

With thanks to HVS member Cynthia R., who attended the Summit and prepared this report.