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Meet the New Jersey Democratic power broker who praised Trump's "genius," attacked immigration

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You can tell a lot about the feudal nature of New Jersey power politics by the media stir made over a two-year video of George Norcross III, South Jersey’s unelected Democratic boss. musing about a wide range of topics — from the likelihood that there was a conspiracy behind JFK’s assassination to the “genius” of Donald Trump.

The video was resurfaced by the Intercept, which made much of Norcross’ observations that Democrats had made themselves vulnerable to Trump because they were too soft on immigration and as a consequence lost ground with a certain slice of working-class voters. But there was so much more to it.

Norcross sits atop a sprawling nexus of insurance, health care and philanthropic enterprises in New Jersey, and is one of those wealthy Democratic National Committee members who, despite some progressive rule changes post 2016, will have an oversized role in picking his party’s presidential nominee next year.

He has taken a leading role in the revitalization for all things in the struggling city of Camden, including reforming public education and public safety. While his civic engagement has burnished a national reputation as a philanthropist, WNYC and ProPublica have reported that of the $1.6 billion in controversial New Jersey Economic Development grants given out to Camden, Norcross and businesses connected with his family were beneficiaries of $1.1 billion of that state stimulus.

His boss-like hold on political power ties back to his family, his material means, decades of philanthropy, and a track record for making investments in Camden that have produced results in terms of improved school performance and crime reduction.

Norcross also has considerable control over who gets to run for what. His political partnership with former Republican Gov. Chris Christie and elements of the Essex County Democratic machine kept non-machine Democrats on the outside looking in for years.

Since Norcross beyond the reach of voters, he does not have to submit himself with any regularity to interviews with reporters. meaning he can control the settings in which he pontificates — because he owns the room and the people in it.

Such was the case with the sit-down he granted the Camden Chamber of Commerce in 2017, where he was “interviewed” as part of the organization’s “Game Changer Series” by Dr. Michael Williams, dean of the School of Business and Management at Thomas Edison State........

© Salon