THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF ORANGE COUNTY Plenty of self-proclaimed progressives like to bitch about the alleged ineptitude of the local Democratic party. But consider this: In a state that is increasingly swinging red, Orange County is still blue, and the Dems control five of the seven seats on the Orlando City Council and four of seven on the Orange County Commission. Nonetheless, there's still work that needs to be done. Citizens who are inclined to help rather than complain will find that the party has two monthly meetings that offer a chance to weigh in. First, there's the aptly named First Friday Social Gathering (5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, locations vary); the Oct. 7 event will be held at party headquarters (633 E. Colonial Drive; 407-896-9292). First Fridays open an opportunity for local Dems to talk informally about the party's future. Then there's the more formal meeting by the Democratic Executive Committee (7 p.m. on the third Monday of every month, the Sorosis Club, 501 E. Livingston St.), where Democratic policy and direction is set and where prospective candidates mine the gathered for prospective supporters. (

ORANGE COUNTY YOUNG DEMOCRATS For those who learned about the civil rights movement in history class, the Young Democrats hold a monthly social gathering called the OCYD Speak Easy, with guest speakers (6 p.m.-8 p.m. on the last Friday of every month, Lava Lounge, 1235 N. Orange Ave.; 407-895-9790). There's also a formal monthly meeting for the organization that's "dedicated to increasing political awareness and activism among democrats under the age of 41." (7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month, Orange County Democratic Headquarters, 633 E. Colonial Drive;

ORANGE COUNTY REPUBLICAN EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE There aren't many Republicans at Orlando Weekly, so we can't say we keep totally up to date with the inner workings of the local GOP. But what we have observed is a very disciplined, functional group, one that picks its candidates and rallies to their support. Yes, there are loud-mouthed outcasts (e.g., Doug Guetzloe), but they are marginalized within the party's power structure. The local GOP neither fully embraces nor shuns the radical social wing of the party, and it picks its fights over bread-and-butter economics and pro-military issues. According to their website, its board meetings and general meetings don't run on an exact schedule, so check before you go. As of this writing, the only posted events are the general meetings on Oct. 6 and Nov. 3. (7 p.m. at Marks Street Senior Center, 99 E. Marks St.) The board meetings are held at OCREC Headquarters. (148 S. Semoran Blvd.; 407-277-0880;

ORANGE COUNTY YOUNG REPUBLICANS Like their counterparts, the local GOP also has a club for its energetic youngsters, which meets monthly. (6 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month, Shanagolden Pub, 32 W. Central Blvd.;

LIBERTARIAN PARTY OF ORANGE COUNTY While the Libertarians aren't the most powerful political party in the U.S. – or Florida – they are gaining. Even when the party itself isn't rising to prominence, its ideas are taking a foothold. Across the political spectrum, libertarian ideals of having a smaller government across the board – from taxes to drugs to abortion to gay rights – are forcing politicians in the two main parties to take notice (monthly meeting, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month; Urban Think! Bookstore, 625 E. Central Blvd.; 407-650-8004), and there's even beer available. (LP of Florida, P.O. Box 3012, Winter Park, 32790; 800-478-0555;

THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF FLORIDA, CENTRAL FLORIDA CHAPTER God bless the ACLU. Sure, they take a lot of flak from fundies and other assorted miscreants who want to turn the government into the enforcer of morality, and sometimes they even take on causes that seem far afield, but at least they're consistent. The ACLU fights to keep religious dogma out of public schools, but it also defended Rush Limbaugh in his fight against drug charges. The Jerry Falwells of the world can blame the ACLU for everything that's wrong with this country. The Michael Savages of the world can call it a terrorist group. But they're stupid. Even if the ACLU is imperfect, we'd hate to see what this country would look like without it. (monthly meeting, 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month, Herndon Library, Orange County Library System, 4324 E. Colonial Drive; 407-619-1520;

RAINBOW DEMOCRATIC CLUB If you're gay and a Democrat, the RDC is for you. For the last decade, this group has provided an increasingly powerful activist voice for homosexuals in Central Florida. As Orlando has become more gay-friendly, the RDC's political endorsements have grown in importance, as have the cutesy ratings on its website. (Commissioner Patty Sheehan gets a glass slipper for being gay-friendly; commissioner Vicki Vargo, on the other hand, is a wicked witch.) The RDC holds monthly meetings. (7 p.m. on the fourth Monday of every month, The Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Community Center of Central Florida, 946 N. Mills Ave.; 407-228-8272) To become an RDC member you must be a registered Orange County Democrat and pay a $25 donation ($40 for a family of two, $10 for students). For a less formal mixer, the RDC offers a 3rd Thursday party (6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month, Savoy, 1911 N. Orange Ave.) that's free except to Republicans, who are charged $5 unless they change parties, according to the RDC's website. (407-415-1375;

LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS ORLANDO Whether you agree with their politics or not, you've got to hand it to this group for sheer chutzpah. The counterpart to the Rainbow Democrats, LCRO is for gay Republicans, and their job isn't always easy. While the Rainbow Dems are usually soldiers in arms with the rest of the party faithful, GOP party activists often take a socially conservative, anti-gay rights bent. But that does not stop the LCRs from being bold and outspoken, and that alone is worth kudos. On a national level, the Log Cabin Republicans can take credit for convincing some of the GOP's less homophobic members that the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment proposed last year by George W. Bush was not a hot idea. Becoming a member costs $25 for students, $60 for individuals and $100 for families. (monthly meeting, 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month, OCREC Headquarters, 148 S. Semoran Blvd.; 407-896-7745;

SIERRA CLUB OF CENTRAL FLORIDA In a state so overwhelmingly run by damn-the-torpedoes, full-speed-ahead pro-business Republicans, sometimes the only thing environmentalists can do is play defense. And that's what they've been doing for years, from the Everglades restoration to preserving wetlands to slowing suburban sprawl. The next battle looming on the horizon is the Sierra Club-endorsed Florida Hometown Democracy Act, a proposed constitutional amendment that would put comprehensive land-use changes to a popular vote, rather than allowing elected officials to make those decisions, as they do now. While there's some reason to question the wisdom of putting growth-management decisions in the hands of people who will likely know nothing about them – and from a more macro perspective, of replacing constitutional republicanism with a mob-mentality democracy – the amendment would probably curtail sprawl in a hurry. So choose your poison. (monthly meeting, 7 p.m.-8:45 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month except December, Harry P. Leu Gardens, 1920 N. Forest Ave.; 407-376-1082, 407-657-9582;

TIGER BAY CLUB OF ORLANDO There is no organization more dedicated to the art of schmoozing than this nonpartisan group that counts just about every mover and shaker in the area among its members. Its luncheons often feature senators and other political bigwigs as speakers, and during campaign season, the club always hosts a top-notch debate. Tiger Bay membership doesn't come cheap: There's a $50 application fee (which is waived if you're under 30 years old), and annual dues of $125, plus $240 to prepay for your lunches at its monthly meetings, which are usually held at the downtown Marriott. The dates change to accommodate speakers, so check the website for updates. Nonmembers can attend the luncheons, but they have to RSVP and pay $30. (407-898-9258;

NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN ORLANDO AREA CHAPTER No group is more closely linked with modern feminism than the National Organization for Women. Whether it's protecting the right to choose from the ever-more-powerful womb Gestapo or pushing to ensure that women enjoy equal protection in the workplace, NOW has become a force to be reckoned with and one of the premier constituency groups of the Democratic party. (7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month, Herndon Library, Orange County Library System, 4324 E. Colonial Drive; 407-579-8386;

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