Hudson and Essex battle for Norcross’s attention while South Jersey braces for races

Sources close to the situation say state Sen. Nick Sacco (D-32) continues to court South Jersey Democratic Leader George Norcross regarding Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-32) as a possible candidate for speaker.

Norcross and Sacco plan to sit down tonight to consider the details of a leadership deal. Asked if Sacco wants to take Norcross around Essex County to Hudson, a source on the inside of the Democrats’ backroom manuevers said, “Yes.”

Sacco wants Prieto in the speaker’s chair, and as long as Essex County projects wobbly or partial backing of another term for Essex-based Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34), the Hudson power player at least wants to keep floating Prieto as an alternative.

Sacco’s pitch to Norcross is he could deliver a bloc of Hudson and Bergen votes – and maybe Passaic County.

As Essex scrambles to cement support for the sitting speaker, Norcross – by talking to Sacco – is keeping his options open, according to a South Jersey source, in the face of a third speaker candidacy, insurgent Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-20).

Finally, most Democrats close to the ongoing deal-making are convinced that the end result will produce another two-year term for Oliver.

But Norcross wants to prove by the time of that vote that Essex needs South Jersey more than South Jersey needs Essex, said the South Jersey source. 

Part of Norcross’s calculation as he deals a way forward is the possibility that he will no longer have 11 solid Assembly votes post Election Day.

A high-powered Democratic source said Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-7), Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-7) and Assemblyman Matt Milam (D-1) are all in toughly contested races.

“If the Norcross stable goes from 11 to eight votes, it’s a whole different ballgame,” the source told 

South Jersey Democrats remain confident that they will retain 11 votes, and call the loss of one their doomsday scenario.