Reeling from losing Steve Sweeney last year in the Senate President’s seat and the accumulation of South Jersey Democratic Party casualties, George Norcross III on Monday spoke grimly to a crowd of South Jersey allies.
“We need a new direction or a lot of you in public service are going to be retired,” Norcross told a room crammed with party insiders in Camden.
In the words of one of them, the Democratic Party powerbroker summoned the troops, and, on a week’s notice, they responded.
Sweeney was in the room.
So was former Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3).
So was state Senator Fred Madden (D-4).
They were all there.
All the loyal soldiers of the South Jersey Democratic Party cause, appareled in either the insulation of redistricting and urban party solidification, or sweating in the habituations of loss.
The message amid recent South Jersey disaster and bad polling numbers for President Joe Biden was that 2022 will likely be rough weather for South Jersey Democrats.
“Get your sh-t together,” was the mood of the speech.
Norcross’ allies in elected office have struggled in the post-Christie years. He lost senate seats in LD1, LD2, LD3 and LD8, the most hurtful loss occurring last year in LD3, where Sweeney took it on the chin.
The senate president went down just weeks after the core of the Norcross-Sweeney support system, the Building Trades, reminded members to focus on labor issues, not pet causes.
“All we do is build,” said N.J. Building Trades President William Mullen.
Norcross also lost a play for leadership of the state party, when sitting Chairman LeRoy Jones of Essex County, negotiated for the chairmanship without Norcross and Sweeney.
The fracture – intensified during the early years of Governor Phil Murphy’s administration, with Sweeney and Norcross staking their claim as checks on Murphy’s power – achieved a kind of catharsis when Jones tossed Sweeney off the legislative redistricting commission.
Occupant of a region of the state that went for Republican Jack Ciattarelli over Murphy last year, Norcross has never been so estranged from the statewide party power apparatus as now, and at least one source in the room wondered aloud if South Jersey Democrats would gain more by simply blowing up the party as it is, in order to regain clout in the years ahead. “Let it burn down,” more than a few people muttered.