Royally irritated state Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28) today chastised South Jersey power broker George Norcross III for intruding into Statehouse politics, upbraiding the boss for buttonholing Bergen leadership to discuss taking out Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32), according to the Bergen Record.
Prieto ran afoul of South Jersey when he proposed his own state takeover of Atlantic City bill, infuriated Norcross and Senate President Steve Sweeney, who’ve partnered with Governor Chris Christie on their own version of the bill.
Norcross subsequently reportedly approached Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato about dumping the sitting North Jersey speaker.
The story angered the long-serving, independent-minded Rice, who’s suspicious of the political relationship between Norcross and Christie, a former U.S. Attorney.
“I have a real problem with George,” the Newark senator told PolitickerNJ. “The last time he said hello to me I let him know how I feel, and I intend to tell him again the next time I see him. ‘George, you’re a very wealthy guy, but you’re not going to use your influence to push people around. I have a real problem with George, who only gets his power from the folks he puts in power.
“If we don’t call him out collectively they’re still trying to mess with Prieto,” Rice added. “I think George is less than a man. He’s someone who uses money to control people’s lives and to buy people. This is a guy, who if he got in the ring with some gloves on he’d get busted up badly. All of us recognize who George Norcross is.”
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) yesterday also decried any South Jersey effort to boot Prieto, but Rice said she didn’t go far enough in her condemnation.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source told PolitickerNJ that leadership coups are rare in Trenton – and dangerous. Unless they are executed fast and without people finding out, the first call made could produce major backlash. South Jersey has 13 caucus votes toward getting the required majority to oust Prieto. The problem is, the first person outside of that alliance who picks up the phone to agree to removing Prieto would find himself suddenly stripped of a chairmanship or ostracized.