The next generation

Young Democrats organize in Hudson County

Assemblyman-elect Nicholas Chiaravalloti of Bayonne once bemoaned the fact that young people seem to have abandoned politics.
He mentioned this in passing back in 2008 when he first ran for the state Assembly.
Although politics is the process through which the public gets to choose its leaders, a whole generation of kids appeared to be turned off by negativity and the perception that politics was corrupt.
At the time, Chiaravalloti was among the few of his generation seeking to test the waters and reclaim a valuable part of the social fabric. He claimed politics is what people make it, and if good people get involved, then the process can be salvaged.
Since then, a batch of new energetic leaders has come forth to reclaim the political landscape, including people like Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
In an appearance at the first gathering of Hudson County Young Democrats in Jersey City earlier this month, Fulop talked about the basis of politics, about voter registration and other activities that help build a party.
“This is an opportunity to get involved,” he said. “Next year (2016) is going to be a big year in politics and the young are going to play a big role.”

“This is long overdue.” – Michael DeFusco
More than 100 guests came together in the first happy hour event, and not just from Hudson County, but from Essex, Bergen, and Morris counties as well.

The first of its kind since the 1980s

Although Fulop was clearly the most high profile, as an example of the next generation of emerging leaders he is not alone. Other political figures, young and old, came to the event to show their support. These included Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro, Jersey City Councilman Daniel Rivera, West New York Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo, North Bergen Commissioner Julio Marenco, Hoboken Councilman-elect Mike DeFusco, Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano, Roxbury Councilman-elect Daniel Kline, Fulop Chief of Staff Mark Albiez, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, Deputy Chief of Staff Craig Guy, Jersey City Councilwoman Joyce Watterman’s aide Jen Watterman, Essex County Young Democrats President Rashawn Davis, and many staffers, operatives and young professionals from throughout Hudson County.
“This is the first group of this kind since the 1980s,” said Phil Swibinski, a member of the well-established political media firm Vision Media.
“This incredibly successful first event demonstrates the strong desire among young people in Hudson County for an organization to help them get involved in improving our communities,” said HCYD President Brian Platt. ”We haven’t even fully established the group, but momentum is already building quickly.” Platt added, “I would like to thank the outstanding elected officials who spoke at our event as well as the members of HCYD and the executive board for their hard work in making this happen. This is an exciting time in Hudson County and we look forward to fulfilling our mission of inspiring civic activism and expanding youth participation in government and politics.”

Launched in November

HCYD officially launched last month and held its first general meeting earlier this week, where the Executive Board and attending members discussed future actions the group will take such as voter registration drives, community service projects, and more. The organization is believed to be the first active Young Democrats group in the county since the 1980s.
Swibinski said he’d had the idea for this organization for a while.
“I knew there was a desire by young people in Hudson County to get involved,” he said.
But even he was surprised by the turnout.
While not all young people were turned off of politics, many did not remain long enough in Hudson County to get involved.
“For decades a lot of young people from Jersey City and Hoboken were moving out of Hudson County,” he said.
Now, many are returning, and not just to the Gold Coast waterfront, but to Union City, North Bergen, Bayonne, and West New York as well.
“People want to get involved with community service and participate in the political process again,” Swibinski said. “They are looking to have a voice again.”
The idea to form a new Young Democratic Organization came out of an event last year when a number of young people from Jersey City, Bayonne, Secaucus, North Hudson, and West Hudson came together.
Platt, who works in Mayor Fulop’s office in Jersey City, got together with Swibinski, and discussed the possibility of a local organization.
“There already is one on the state level,” Swibinski said. “Brian [Platt] wanted to start one locally. We brought this to Mayor Fulop and to [Assembly Speaker] Vincent Prieto. They liked the idea. We met with others over the summer. It was very slow for a while, but then it picked up steam.”
He said board members come from all over Hudson County, and recruitment for members will take place in every town.
“We formed an executive board with seven members,” Swibinski said. “We’ll hold elections every December for the board.”
The group’s first order of business is to conduct a membership drive. This was part of the reason for the meet and greet, and the event resulted in signing up nearly 25 people, Swibinski said.
“We’re going to focus on community service and quality of life, and will partner with local not for profit organizations,” he said.
Voter registration will be key with two major elections looming, the presidential in 2016, and the gubernatorial in 2017.
The age range for membership is 18 to 36, although older political people are welcome to attend their events.
“We’re also about helping young professions to network,” Swibinski said. “We want to establish relationships between people.”
He said government and policies play a tremendous role in people’s lives, and it is time for young people to step up.
“This is an incubator for future leaders,” he said.

Inspiring each other

Recently-elected Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco said he long believes young people wanted to get involved, and saw a need for a diversity of intelligent and passionate people in politics.
“This is long overdue,” he said. “Attendance showed that people want to come out, get organized, and express Democratic ideals.”
DeFusco said he was inspired to get involved during the original campaign for President Barack Obama. But he said there was no young people’s organization in Hudson County at the time.
“I always though Democrats stand up for those who might not have as much opportunity as other people,” he said. “We are the party that helps the homeless and immigrants.”
He said it is important for Democrats to get together, not just on a national level, but locally, to inspire each other and the let voices of various groups be heard.

Al Sullivan may be reached at

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group