Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
From August through November of 2011 I worked as an intern for the Utah Democratic state party at their state party headquarters. I started my internship around the same time as the newly elected chair of the state party, Jim Dabakis, assumed his new role as head of the party. Dabakis did not have the traditional resume of a party chair but rather had his background as an international art dealer and businessman. He had always been politically minded and involved in political causes, but he did not have the extensive partisan politics background that previous chairs had. In anticipation of taking over as chair, Dabakis went on a statewide tour visiting with all of the county party leaders and Utahns from all over the state. When I started my internship Dabakis expressed that he was somewhat perplexed as to why the party was organized in the way that it was. He didn’t understand why each of twenty-nine counties needed its own county party with its own executive committee and its own bureaucratic structure. I realized that, despite my background in political science, I had never really thought about this question and had no idea whether there even were state parties that were organized in any other way. I began to ask the same questions as Dabakis. Certainly Salt Lake County, with over one million people living within its boundaries, needs its own county party structure but is the same necessarily true for Daggett or Piute counties that each has less than two thousand residents? If Utah has such a great contrast between counties creating confusion in organizational structure, then it is likely that other states have some unique organizational needs as well.
This confusion over the decentralization of party power to the county level rather than some other sub-level spurred several questions. Do parties organize themselves in any other way below the state level in other states? If so, what is the reasoning behind the model of decentralization chosen in various states? Further, if a party chooses a different model of decentralization of state party organization what impact, if any, does this have on electoral success, candidate recruitment, party organizational strength, registration numbers, and other indicators of party success? These questions not only have theoretical grounding, but the answers to these questions have real life application to partisan politics in modern electoral politics in the United States. This paper will conduct a review of literature relating to party integration, summarize the hierarchical organizational structures of the various state parties, examine potential causes and potential consequences of various structure models, and provide a review of surveys and interviews of local party elites to provide useful insight into the aforementioned questions.
Higham, Isaac McKay, "Hierarchical Structural Organizations of State Political Parties" (2012). All Graduate Plan B and other Reports. 138.