As New Jersey Democrats Feud, Major Legislation Is in Jeopardy
By Ryan Hutchins
A long-simmering intraparty fight among Democrats in New Jersey has turned into an open civil war, pitting the state’s political novice governor against an old-school political boss who has ruled for more than two decades — and potentially reordering the political landscape in what’s become a national Democratic stronghold.
The protagonists come from very different wings of New Jersey’s political sphere: Gov. Phil Murphy, a 61-year-old former Goldman Sachs executive and Obama appointee who succeeded Republican Gov. Chris Christie nearly 18 months ago pledging to clean up New Jersey government, and George Norcross, a wealthy 63-year-old insurance executive who is the state’s most powerful unelected official — and whose political wrath is so feared he has taken on an almost mythical status in Jersey circles.
Now the governor has launched an unprecedented public attack on Norcross, who has nearly uncontested control of South Jersey’s Democratic machine and is among the people targeted by a Murphy-commissioned inquiry into the state’s multi-billion dollar tax incentive programs.
Norcross has responded by opening fire on the governor, breaking his typical silence to compare Murphy to the king of England and call him a “liar” and “politically incompetent.” Norcross claims Murphy is trying to undermine his efforts to revitalize impoverished Camden, and has even recruited Christie, who was a key ally and signed the tax incentive law, to join the battle against Murphy.
In a state where Democrats have a nearly one-million-voter advantage over Republicans and control two branches of government, the dispute is all that matters for the political class.