Anyone trying to navigate New Jersey politics will not get very far before hearing the name George Norcross.
The Camden County political powerbroker, executive chairman at Conner Strong & Buckelew, and chairman of the board of trustees at Cooper University Health Care is widely regarded as the state’s most powerful unelected individual.
Many times, laws are enacted for seemingly innocuous reasons, but media outlets or watchdog groups later reveal that a provision dropped into the legislation benefited a business or person with close ties to Norcross.
“No one speaks for the legislators more than George,” said one Trenton insider. “No one controls more voters than George Norcross.”
While an obscure figure to those not closely following New Jersey politics, Norcross was under the spotlight in 2019 over the state’s economic incentive program, and Murphy-led scrutiny into how he and businesses in which he’s involved may have improperly benefited from the program. But as the pandemic swept across the state last March, Norcross’ name gradually disappeared from the headlines.
“George doesn’t like his name in the media,” said one insider. “His name was in the media because of the infighting that was occurring. That fight is over. George is now where he likes to be, nothing in the news. But he’s absolutely controlling the votes.”
Norcross has described himself as one of the key figures in Camden’s revival. Progressive groups, though, question how broad the city’s recovery has been. And, in fact, wherever Camden is going, Norcross will be largely responsible for getting it there. For example the tax credit bill, one Trenton insider noted, has a significant “South Jersey component.”
The businesses that Norcross is involved with — insurance and health care — have been heavily affected by the pandemic. Cooper has been at the front lines for South Jersey’s response to the pandemic, while Conner Strong & Buckelew is a major New Jersey player in an insurance industry which has completely retooled itself over the past year.