By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
“Let’s do this together! Let’s get to work!,” Donald Norcross told a roomful of supporters about receiving a call from veteran Congressman Rob Andrews Sunday night, two weeks ago.
“Rob called and says he was gonna retire–wow–went home, had a conversation with my wife. That was an interesting conversation, but today I’m here to formally kick off my campaign to be your congressman,” said Norcross.
Andrews, Norcross said , was the most important person not in the room today, a title that could just as easily be bestowed on Norcross’s brother George, the power broker.
Within one hour of Andrews’s press announcement two weeks ago, dozens of South Jersey officials and organizations got behind Donald. But a source close to him says George Norcross was completely taken aback by Andrews’s decision and did not orchestrate this.
When asked about what he would say to people who about George making his brother a congressman, Senate President Steve Sweeney said, “Bull. And I’d use another word too but I know better now. Donald’s earned this.”
“This isn’t about George. Everyone’s gonna want to say that. This is about Donald. Donald’s his own man. Donald stands on his own feet,” said Sweeney.
Donald’s wife and children were with him. He said all three of his brothers were working today and side-stepped related questions.
On whether the Norcross name is a double-edged sword, Norcross said, “I don’t know that it is. I’ve been elected four times in the last five years.”
Norcross is an electrician and a business agent for the electrician’s union. Sweeney, an ironworker, is a lifelong friend and called him ‘one of us’.
“Think about it. If we a few more of “us” in Washington, you think we’d do a little better? It’s time we send a union electrician to Washington,” said Sweeney.
“I’m a kid from Pennsauken, right? My kids are gonna hate this—I’m an electrician with a tie. I say that because its not what you do, it’s how you do it,” Norcross said.
Republicans have talked about running former Philadelphia Eagle football player Gary Cobb against Norcross. Sweeney says that has no chance.
“When they did re-districting, this is one of the safest Democratic districts in the nation,” Sweeney said.
For all the talk today about Donald being his own man, George Norcross has to figure into the conversation He’s been the kingmaker of South Jersey politics since before Rob Andrews went to Congress 23 years ago, and now it looks like Andrews is passing the baton to one of the Norcross brothers.