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Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt at Gov. Phil Murphy’s FY2024 Budget Address. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

South Jersey Dems stay mostly quiet on Norcross retirement story

Legislators held call with Norcross on Tuesday, but won’t say much about what was discussed

By Joey Fox, May 11 2023 5:05 pm

The South Jersey Democratic organization is, by nature, rather tight-lipped about its operations. So it was something of a surprise when George Norcross, the boss behind the entire operation, openly told Politico NJ earlier this week that he’d be taking a step back.

Of course, just what “stepping back” means is somewhat up for interpretation. The first day of his supposed retirement, he hosted a high-dollar fundraiser in support of his brother, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-Camden). The day after that, he led a call with the South Jersey legislative delegation, his loyal advocates in Trenton.

Asked about that call today, several South Jersey Democratic legislators wouldn’t say what was discussed, and most offered equivocal answers on whether they believed Norcross when he said that it was “time for others to lead the party.”

“We do our South Jersey calls, as any one of the organizations within the state will do,” Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Cherry Hill) said. “It’s a busy time of the year – we’ve got the budget, we’ve got all these things happening. You know, it was just a call.”

“We collectively come together to discuss issues of importance,” Assemblyman Bill Moen (D-Bellmawr) said. “I don’t think it’s anything – I’m not going to comment on that.”

“Uh, no,” Assemblyman Bill Spearman (D-Camden) said when asked if he’d share what the call was about. And State Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Barrington) wouldn’t answer questions at all.

Since Norcross doesn’t hold any proper position in government, it will be tough to track exactly what the supposed relinquishment of his power would look like. 

One notable sign came when American Democratic Majority, a Norcross-linked super PAC that the South Jersey organization has used to finance many of its campaigns, reported raising $0 in the first quarter of 2023. There’s also the fact that with the loss of former Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and a number of other prominent South Jersey Democrats in the 2021 elections, Norcross’s once-dominant statewide influence is ebbing regardless.

But the Norcross machine could easily find alternate ways to finance its campaigns – and they’ll likely do so this year as they work to flip back a number of those South Jersey legislative districts they lost. In other words, besides the Politico NJ interview itself, there’s not likely to immediately be much concrete evidence of Norcross’s retirement or lack thereof.

None of the three South Jersey lawmakers who talked to the New Jersey Globe offered much insight when asked what they thought of the story that Norcross was stepping back.

“He made his statement, it was public,” Spearman said. “That’s what he said.”

“I think he’s been a tremendous leader in the city of Camden and the state of New Jersey,” Moen said. “I’ve seen the impact that our collective decision-makers have made, in addition to the private sector contributions from leaders like George … that aren’t going to necessarily go away just because they may decide to take a step back.”

“Do I believe the story? Facts matter,” Lampitt said cryptically. “Let me just say that.”

Does Lampitt think it’s a “fact” that Norcross is retiring? “I’m not saying that it is.”

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