Sixty years ago, on January 2, 1960, US Senator John F. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) announced that he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Watch the following video of JFK making this announcement, and you get a sense of his capacity for positive Inspiration and hope. This is why the Kennedys will always be regarded as having a virtually magical charisma.
Almost exactly sixty years to the date later, on January 6, 2020, Amy Kennedy, wife of former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy, son of former US Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) announced that she is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the US House of Representatives from New Jersey’s Second Congressional District. In my column of December 18, 2019, (https://www.insidernj.com/cd2-historic-year-kennedy/), I described her as follows:
“Amy has that visual appeal to the heart that so typifies the Kennedys. A mother of five, she is wholesomely beautiful, in a nonseductive, dignified way that is heartwarming to men and nonthreatening to other women. With her lifelong residential and political roots in that Second Congressional District, she is New Jersey’s answer to Debbie Reynolds, the wonderful girl next door whom all the mothers wanted to see their high school football playing sons take to the senior prom.”
“She is a woman of profound achievement in the education and nonprofit advocacy worlds, in the latter the rights and welfare of those with mental health conditions. In both arenas, Amy has exhibited exquisite communication skills that will benefit her abundantly on the campaign trail.”
Here is the video of her campaign announcement on January 6, 2020. In describing Amy, did I miss anything? I don’t think so.
Her father, Jerry Savell, was a Democratic Atlantic County freeholder and a councilman in both Absecon and Pleasantville. In a nutshell, Amy is an ideal winning combination of Camelot and the Jersey Shore.
The Kennedy name remains magical throughout the nation. The fundraising for Amy will dwarf that of any of her opponents. Volunteers on behalf of Amy will arrive en masse from all areas of America.
And there is one person above all who will be a huge positive factor for Amy. Her initials are Nancy Pelosi.
Nancy’s father, “Big Tommy” D’Alesandro, who served in the United States House of Representatives and as mayor of Baltimore was both a close personal friend and political ally of JFK. For Nancy Pelosi, the Kennedys are family.
Full disclosure: I have my own personal reason for admiring “Big Tommy” D’Alesandro. He was a strong supporter of the Bergson Group, a courageous band of activist Jews during the Second World War who in outspoken fashion protested the policies of the Roosevelt administration that prevented the entry into America of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.
A high Democratic Party player told me that on South Jersey Democrat Boss George Norcross’s recent pilgrimage to Washington, Speaker Pelosi told him in no uncertain terms of her strong preference for Amy Kennedy.
I don’t know if Nancy Pelosi will be publicly endorsing Amy. There is no doubt, however, that the Nancy Pelosi fundraising machinery and network will be operating in overtime for Amy Kennedy. And compared with the Nancy Pelosi fundraising operation, the George Norcross fundraising network is minor league.
In fact, while the name George Norcross III (also known as GN3) will not be on the ballot in the June
primary, he is Amy Kennedy’s principle opponent. George has thrown his support behind a Montclair State University professor, Brigid Harrison. She presumably received GN3’s backing – at least in part – on the basis of an obsequious column she wrote in the Star-Ledger on May 9, 2019, distinguishing herself as his major apologist in the world of academia. https://www.nj.com/opinion/2019/05/maybe-we-shouldnt-be-so-upset-about-tax-incentives-professor-says-have-you-been-to-camden-lately.html
In Norcrossland, obsequiousness towards GN3 is obedience to the King. It was not surprising that George moved with all deliberate speed to make Harrison’s nomination a fait accompli.
The Second Congressional District is comprised of all of Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem Counties and portions of Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Ocean Counties.
The Democratic County Chairs in these eight counties are basically subalterns of Boss Norcross, and it was no surprise that within days of the news of the possible entry of Amy into the race, six of these eight chairs lined up behind Norcross to endorse Brigid Harrison.
A notable exception was Michael Suleiman, the Democratic County Chair of Atlantic County. Suleiman’s position is complicated by the fact that Atlantic County Freeholder Ashley Bennett has announced her candidacy for this Democratic Congressional seat nomination.
Ashley Bennett is an outstanding African-American woman, with distinguished achievement in the academic and mental healthcare realms. She has a sterling character and superb credentials to provide excellent representation in the US House of Representatives to the citizenry of New Jersey’s Second Congressional District.
Without the support of the Atlantic County Democratic Committee, however, Bennett will lack viability as a candidate. To be viable in this primary, you need either a strong financial base, like that of Amy Kennedy, or solid party organizational support, like the Norcross-controlled county party organizations backing Brigid Harrison. The last hope for any organizational support for Ashley Bennett is the Atlantic County Democratic Committee.
Suleiman does not want to generate an outcry from the Atlantic County African-American community if he opts to endorse Harrison. Neither does he want to encounter the wrath of George Norcross if he endorses Ashley Bennett.
Suleiman is the Manager of Government Relations at the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which has a long-term reputation for being a GN3 satrapy. Presumably, Suleiman likes having his job. In the end, he will endorse Brigid Harrison.
So the 2nd Congressional District Democratic Primary will be a contest between a Kennedy Democrat, Amy Kennedy, and a Norcross Democrat, Brigid Harrison. The term “Kennedy Democrat” in itself gives Amy Kennedy a decisive advantage over Harrison. Yet even worse for Brigid, her hard won mantle of “Norcross Democrat” has a particularly unsavory and negative connotation, due to three factors.
- The recent investigative media regarding the number and amount of state tax incentives George Norcross and his cronies have received in Camden.
Regarding this issue, in Harrison’s aforementioned column regarding Norcross, the following words stand out:
“In watching the recriminations of companies connected to Norcross, I couldn’t help but ask, ‘so what?’ Should business leaders with ‘connections’ to Norcross be precluded from receiving the tax incentives? Is there something illegal about having a connection to the man? Are these people who are so incensed new to politics? To New Jersey? Do they not understand how spheres of influence work?”
Harrison’s words are not exactly those of a good government reformer. Basically, she is offering the voter the vision of the cynicism of Norcrossland rather than the hope of Camelot.
Kennedy’s consultants should take great delight in using this quote in a negative commercial against Harrison.
2.The status of George Norcross as a past proud friend of Donald Trump and member of his Mar-a-Lago Country Club.
I don’t know what the current status is of the Norcross relationship with The Donald. Suffice it to say that the core of any Democratic campaign message in the primary of 2020 is anti-Donald Trump. And if you are Brigid Harrison and your patron is George Norcross with his history of friendship with The Donald, the effectiveness of your anti-Trump message is somewhat impaired.
- Norcross’s relationship with Chris Christie and the forthcoming Bridgegate appeals.
On Tuesday, January 14, 2020, ironically the same date as Governor Murphy’s State-of-the-State address, the US Supreme Court will hear the oral arguments in the appeals of the Bridgegate convictions of Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly.
Former State Senator Ray Lesniak is predicting that the convictions of both Baroni and Kelly will be overturned by the US Supreme Court. If Ray’s prediction becomes reality, the effect on the gubernatorial legacy of Chris Christie will be devastating.
Now of course, neither George Norcross nor Brigid Harrison is responsible for Bridgegate. Norcross, however, has long emphasized his strong relationship with Christie. And the image in the media of Norcross as an ally of Trump and Christie is bound to be harmful to all endorsees of GN3 in the forthcoming primaries – including Brigid Harrison.
There is another feature of the forthcoming Kennedy-Harrison primary that has the potential of enormous damage to the existing political suzerainty of George Norcross in South Jersey. In the eight counties within Congressional District Two, Kennedy may recruit candidates to run with her in a column containing candidates for positions at the county level. These candidates would be running in opposition to many proteges of Norcross in the eight counties in question.
With Amy Kennedy at the top of the column, her running mates would have a real chance at victory. In addition, the fervently anti-Norcross forces of New Jersey Working Families Alliance, the Communication Workers of America (CWA), and the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) would doubtless support the Kennedy slates with both ground troops and money.
While I feel comfortable in predicting a decisive victory of Amy Kennedy over Brigid Harrison, it is difficult to forecast whether her running mates in her columns would prevail. A victory of Kennedy over Harrison, however, would extend the Norcross losing streak, which began in Collingswood last June in the Camden County Democratic Committee Seat primary and extended into the general election losses of the Norcross-supported candidates in the First and Eighth Legislative Districts this past November. As the GN3 losing streak continues, the more the South Jersey anti-Norcross forces become emboldened.
Indeed, it is always safe to predict the triumph of a Kennedy Democrat over a Norcross Democrat. The arrival of Camelot in South Jersey may well presage the eventual downfall of Norcrossland.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.