NJ Political Potpourri, Van Drew Edition

Van Drew

Lame Duck’s anything but lame this year. Let’s spend the next 800 words proving it!


Not even one week ago, South Jersey Congressman Jefferson Van Drew urged voters to not judge him too harshly for voting against the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Press of Atlantic City:

“You can’t base (how you feel about) all of my votes and all of the things I have done in Atlantic County and South Jersey on one single vote,” Van Drew said Friday. “I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

Days later, Van Drew met with President Trump and by Friday, news broke that Van Drew switched parties and would be joining the GOP.

Van Drew, from Dennis in Cape May County, is a decades-long loyalist to South Jersey boss George Norcross. Remember that the next time you see one of Norcross’ enforcers on Twitter calling someone a “fake progressive.”

This is a huge national story. And despite the breathless denunciations from Sweeney and Congressman Donald Norcross, this story highlights what many of us realized long ago: that with a staggering frequency, it’s power before principles with the Norcross clique.


The contest to lead the New Jersey Democratic State Committee is a two-man race between incumbent John Currie and his challenger LeRoy Jones.

Mr. Jones and his South Jersey supporters are keen to depose Currie and replace him with someone more in tune with George Norcross, the man who leads the South Jersey Democrats.

LeRoy Jones is the man to unite the party, they’ll tell you, without a hint of self-awareness that they’re the ones blowing things up . But it was never about unity for LeRoy Jones and his crew.

It’s about hoarding power pure and simple.

Whoever wins the chairman’s race chooses five members of the commission to redraw NJ’s Congressional and legislative maps after the next census. The South Jersey Democrats, eager to draw maps that entrench their members in office for a decade, have gone all in to ensure the rise of LeRoy Jones, who’s a more kindred spirit than his rival. Chairman Currie is an ally of Governor Phil Murphy, the man who was overwhelmingly elected into office in November 0f 2017.

Tradition says the Governor picks the chairman. Norcross and his top loyalist Senator Steve Sweeney apparently covet the baubles that come with  governorship but lack the conviction to actually run for the job. Audaciously, they want to choose their own voters instead of the others way around! And if Governor Murphy gets shafted in the process, that’s just bonus for this crew.

Next time a Jones supporter tells you this is about unity push back.

Reefer(endum) Madness

It’s official: a referendum to legalize cannabis in NJ will be on the ballot in November of 2020. On Monday the Assembly and the Senate approved the ballot measure by a 3/5th majority in both houses.

Referenda usually require two votes in both houses in consecutive sessions. In this instance, hitting that 3/5ths threshold eliminated the need for a second vote.

I feel like a broken record sometime when I write about cannabis but I’ll say it again anyway: it would have been highly preferable doing this by statue because the War of Drugs continues to harm people all over the state. This could have been done already. Instead we’ll spend the next 11 months campaigning. If the measure passes next November, it’ll take another year (probably more) for the bureaucrats to stand this program up.

According to the ACLU of NJ, 94 people get locked up for cannabis every day in New Jersey. Multiply that by two more years and it’s an expensive-looking total: 67,680 pot arrests between now and whenever November’s referendum yields any actual relief. And that’s assuming the ballot measure actually passes. which is far from guaranteed.

The South Jersey Democrats and the entire NJGOP refused to play ball on this issue, a trend we covered in last week’s column. Facing those long odds, it’s awfully hard to get a majority in Trenton, but it’s definitely not impossible. The votes to legalize cannabis were there in the Assembly and the Senate was just a few votes short in the end.

That makes the foot-dragging of Senators like Nia Gill and Paul Sarlo so consequential.

Jay Lassiter is an award-winning writer and podcaster who’s eager to get the government out of your bong. 


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