Welcome to New Jersey


One of the most interesting things out of the BridgeGate story today was former Governor, now State Senator Richard Codey’s claim that “Democratic Power Brokers” were and still are trying to block the investigation into the bridge closure. I don’t know Jersey politics enough to be sure. But everybody I talked to today who really knows New Jersey politics was certain this was a reference to George Norcross, the Democratic boss in South Jersey, probably the most powerful Democrat in the State. Earlier this evening I got an email from a longtime TPM Reader, very knowledgeable about New Jersey politics, whose initials I won’t even use, giving me some background on Codey and Norcross and what this jab was about.

The details themselves are quite interesting. But as much as that you’ve just got to read it for the bracing flavor and imagery it gives you of how this state runs if you have never lived here or followed its politics before …

It’s pretty cool for those of us who have been involved in New Jersey politics now that the rest of the nation is getting an education on the “Game of Thrones” nature of NJ politics.

So, about this comment, here’s some critical background that explains it

1) First, he is undoubtedly talking about the nexus of George Norcross (South Jersey power broker and the most powerful D in the State), Joe Divincenzo (The Essex County Executive) and his patron, Steve Adubato, State Senator Brian Stack from Hudson County, who is also mayor of Union City. These three are the major political bosses whose organizations and associations have provided Christie with the necessary Democratic votes on any initiative he has successfully passed. All of the South Jersey Democrats, including State Senate President Steve Sweeney from Gloucester County are part of Norcross’ organization, while some key Essex and Hudson Dems are aligned with Stack and Divincenzo.

2) Incoming Speaker-Designate Vince Prieto comes out of Hudson County and is part of essentially a peace treaty brokered by Norcross between warring factions in Hudson Democratic circles – Stack and State Senator Nick Sacco, who is also mayor of North Bergen. Prieto replaces Assemblywoman Shelia Oliver, from Essex County, who, in her day job, works for Steve Adubato’s non-profit, Newark’s North Ward Center (where Divincenzo worked before he became County Executive. The consensus is that Oliver was deposed because the alliance between Divincenzo and Norcross soured.

3) Sidenote – If a South Jersey D is the presiding officer over one house (Sweeney in the Senate), then a North Jersey D will, by tradition, preside over the other. Hence the need for alliances

4) Stack and Divincenzo publicly endorsed Christie. Norcross did not.

5) A Republican Assemblyman accused Christie of cutting a deal with Norcross so that Christie wouldn’t oppose South Jersey D legislator in exchange for Norcross supporting key Christie iniaitves.

6) Dick Codey and Steve Adubato (and Joe Divicenzo) are implacable enemies

7) Codey, who is the most popular Dem in state, was deposed as Senate President by Sweeney, who was supported by the Norcross/Adubato/Stack axis. He was then redistricted into a more difficult, but still winnable district with many new voters

So, that’s the background. re: the GWB

1) Sweeney made statements downplaying the bridge scandal early on….

2) Prieto had not committed to reauthorizing subponea power for Wisniewski’s committee under the new legislature until the emails leaked last week.

So, that’s what you need to know. And this is really bad for Chris Christie, because its also about an internal fight in the Democratic party and the the anti-Christie faction has been empowered, while the Christie accomodationists have been weakened.

Tell me again how you figure this stuff plays on the national stage?

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