CHERRY HILL – Two men faced off on a hot South Jersey Monday afternoon, one dressed in the garb of Revolutionary War protest, the other in the classic attire of politics.
On the sidewalk in front of the Caffe Aldo Lamberti on Marlton Pike in Cherry Hill, James De Paola, a paralegal from East Brunswick who attends protests dressed as a Revolutionary War-era Continental Army soldier, stood with the Stars and Stripes in one hand and a clenched fist in the other, railing at the crowd coming and going inside.
More than 200 people had come to see U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speak at a reported $2,600-per-plate fundraiser for state Sen. Donald Norcross (D-5), who is seeking New Jersey’s First Congressional District seat after former U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1) announced he would not seek re-election in February. More than 100 protesters from an array of conservative groups assembled outside, including supporters of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Bell and the Tea Party, held up signs calling on Reid to get out of New Jersey and accusing Reid and Norcross of being in corrupt cahoots.
One sign held up by a particular protester referred to Donald Norcross as “a big crock” and the “brother of big crock,” an uncomplimentary allusion to George Norcross III, Donald’s older brother. George Norcross, an insurance executive, is generally acknowledged to be the prime South Jersey Democratic power broker, a statewide political player whose influence reaches far into North Jersey.
Norcross, familiar with his shock of silver-white hair, was getting into his car towards the end of the fundraising event when De Paola, in full revolutionary fervor to match his clothes, cried out to him.
“You in the black suit! You’re an abomination!” yelled De Paola. “We’re not shutting up!”
When asked for his response, Norcross’ reply was quick.
“They’re going to accuse me of paying for these people to come out here,” Norcoss told PolitickerNJ. “I couldn’t ask for a better audience than this.”
With that, Norcross cast a glance at De Paola, who uses the protest name of James Paul Revere, a nod to the famed rebel rabble-rouser.
“Black suit?” Norcross said before driving off. “No. It’s a navy blue suit.”