Swarmed by criticism over his alleged role in pushing for a leadership takedown of Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32), South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross III struck back today and called on Prieto to back down.
“I’m interested in protecting the livelihoods of Atlantic City and Southern New Jersey,” Norcross told PolitickerNJ. “I’m very disappointed that Speaker Prieto seems bent on forcing Atlantic City into financial collapse and bankruptcy.
“It’s apparent that he doesn’t have 41 votes to pass his bill that he announced four weeks ago,” Norcross added. “Every day that goes by is another bad day for the families of Atlantic City and South Jersey. He should accept the compromises presented to him and allow Atlantic City to move ahead.”
South Jersey sources contend that Prieto has 35 votes for his Atlantic City takeover bill. To quote Phil Murphy, “On a good day.”
Norcross wouldn’t directly address Charles Stile’s story in which Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato said the South Jersey boss asked him if he would support dumping Prieto in exchange for Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37). But two South Jersey sources contend that Stellato floated the name of Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) as a possible Prieto replacement. The sources contend that Stellato is now angry at Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Prieto because of the mayor’s flip flop on the North Jersey gaming question. Fulop said he would work aggressively to kill a ballot question enabling North Jersey casinos. Stellato is said to want a casino in the Meadowlands.
But Stellato told Stile that Prieto is “solid.”
For about a month, South Jersey Democrats have prodded caucus members on the prospects of a leadership change.
Desperate to get rid of Prieto, they have floated, at one time or another, the following names: Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22), Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-6), Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle, Assemblyman Joe Egan (D-17) and Assemblyman Wayne DeAngleo (D-14).
Mention Prieto’s name to South Jersey Democrats right now and they react in seething tones, as the prospect of Atlantic City running out of time turns bitterness to rage.