28 May 2019
Twenty years ago, New Jersey experienced a civil war. But hardly anyone noticed it.
Now we are at war with each other again. Same old arguments but now the positions seem to be reversed.
Since you weren’t paying attention in the 90s, I’ll recap.
For decades, South Jersey leaders – or at least Democrats – have felt left out of decision-making in Trenton and demanded more. More power, more jobs, more money. They thought the north had it all, too. And they wanted it.
This time it’s different. This time the north – or at least that’s how southern rulers see Governor Murphy – is checking how much the south actually got. And how they got it. And the south is furious.
In 1998, Democrats were in the minority in both houses of the Legislature and Christie Whitman was governor. Joe Doria of Bayonne was minority leader in the Assembly and Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck was a Member of Parliament. George Norcross, the unelected leader from the south, insisted that one of his guys get one of those top two spots.
Wait a minute, you’re probably saying, George Norcross? Isn’t that the guy we’re talking about these days, the one who told the governor he was no longer welcome in Camden? Yes OK. All the other players have changed, but George Norcross is still in command south of Route 195.
When I was a rookie lawmaker, I was sitting next to a man from one of the southern counties. We were at the end of a row on the left side of the bedroom where the windows were drafty, and it was often cold. However, that day I noticed that my seatmate was actually shaking. I suggested that if he was that cold he should come down to the caucus room to warm up.
He said he was not cold, and with downcast eyes he tilted his head on the ground to where a white-haired man stood, talking with another lawmaker. I didn’t understand, so I asked, “Is he why you are shaking?” Who is he? “He whispered that it was George Norcross and he said every member of the southern delegation was scared to death of him. He added that if Norcross was on the ground something bad had to happen. produce.
It was. Days later, after secret meetings, a dozen lawmakers from the five southern counties left the Assembly caucus and began holding their own conclave, refusing to speak or collaborate with their northern or central colleagues. of Jersey or their own officers. Party. The little influence Dems had in Trenton shrank and almost nothing was done except things for which Republicans already had enough votes.
The stalemate lasted for about a year and was only resolved when Democrats won a majority in 2000 and there was enough power and money to be satisfactorily shared.
Then a southern lawmaker became majority leader and a few years later a southern lawmaker became president of the Senate. And after a few more years, Camden received literally billions of dollars for the redevelopment. No doubt it was necessary and no doubt it worked. But some question the fact that George Norcross’s interests got big chunks of that money.
George’s reaction was like, “How dare you? And he made it look like all of Camden was under suspicion, not just him. Governor Murphy simply ordered an investigation into the application and approval process for the distribution of money, but Norcross saw this as a declaration of war. This time it’s nuclear.
A former member of the Jersey City assembly, Joan Quigley is President and CEO of North Hudson Community Action Corp.
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