January 13, 2021

Princeton Dems Seek Greater Inclusivity After Successes in Recent Elections

By Donald Gilpin

The Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) has reduced its membership dues to $0 in seeking to attract new members and promote inclusivity.

“In short, we are stronger when we are inclusive, diverse, and unified,” wrote PCDO President Jo Butler in an email. In this unprecedented year, offering $0 dues is one way to invite you to come on in through our wide-open front door.”

In a phone call Monday, Butler highlighted the PCDO’s extensive programming over the past year and the push to get more people involved. “With Zoom or YouTube online we have the opportunity to expand the number of our participants, people who can appreciate our program,” she said. “We want to invite more people into the tent.”

The PCDO going forward is planning to cover expenses through contributions rather than dues. With virtual rather than in-person meetings for most of the year, the organization, which has a membership of more than 500, has been able to save money, and a number of people have made generous voluntary contributions. “I was nervous about this,” Butler said. “The numbers people were a little skeptical, but I think it’s going to work out. I’m happy for the organization.”

Adam Bierman, who ran for Princeton Council in 2019 but declined to participate in the PCDO endorsement process that March because of the dues requirement ($5 to $15), applauded the PCDO’s decision to abolish dues.

“The move is long overdue,” he said. “We were told by the county chair back when consolidation happened (2013) to decouple money from the PCDO endorsement vote. Pay for play is undemocratic.”

The PCDO, New Jersey’s largest and most active Democratic club, recently sponsored forums with Senator Cory Booker, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello, Princeton Mayor-Elect Mark Freda, Princeton Police Chief Nick Sutter, and representatives from the ACLU.

“For many years the PCDO has been at the forefront of promoting democratic ideals and inspiring political action, both of which are needed now more than ever,” said Butler. “As members you will have a place in the fight for Democratic values in our town, in New Jersey, and across the nation. Engage with political representatives and thought leaders on topics important to us all.”

Early in the 2020 election campaign, the PCDO decided to focus its efforts on the New Jersey “blue wave” and the Biden campaign, Butler noted. “We were delighted we were able to support the efforts of Congressional candidates Andy Kim, Tom Malinowski, and Mickie Sherrill in central New Jersey,” she said. “We also did some phone banking to Ohio and North Carolina.”

The PCDO also weighed in in the battleground state of Georgia. “We supported a couple of organizations in Georgia, including Stacey Abrams’ organization, leading up to the November election,” Butler added. “We also contributed to both Democratic campaigns in the run-off elections.”

Butler pointed out three priorities for the PCDO going forward: to support the Biden-Harris administration; to help disseminate information locally about the pandemic and vaccinations; and to prepare for upcoming elections, including Princeton Council, where two seats will be up for grabs later this year.

Butler emphasized the PCDO’s important function of informing the public in Princeton. “We can help tell people what they need to do to get vaccinated,” she said. “We can’t get back to normalcy until we get the pandemic under control. I hope we can use our distribution list to help get the word out.”

She continued, “People who are involved in the Democratic organization are often looked to in their neighborhoods, in their circle of friends, as people who are connected, involved and paying attention, and they are.”

The PCDO endorsement meeting is coming up in March, when members will vote on which candidates to endorse and which to support in this year’s June primary race for Princeton Council and other elections.

“We want to encourage people to consider public service,” said Butler. “It’s a great time to get involved. There will be a host of issues, and it could be a good, productive time to be involved.”

Butler became PCDO president last summer when former president Jean Durbin stepped down to begin her run for the Princeton Board of Education. Afsheen Shamsi, a member of the PCDO executive board and also a member of the Princeton Human Services Commission and the Princeton Civil Rights Commission, will become the new PCDO president at the PCDO January 24 meeting.

For more information visit the PCDO website at www.princetondems.org.