Tension remains high among top Democrats

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

It’s being called a civil war. The most powerful Democrat in the state — Phil Murphy — is at odds with the number two and three Democrats — George Norcross and Steve Sweeney.

At the State House Monday, NJTV News spoke to veteran Democratic lawmakers. Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald is part of the Norcross South Jersey operation. He says things aren’t that hostile.

“Every day I wake up and I watch the news out of Washington. People, rightfully so, are frustrated that the Republican Senate will not stand up to a Republican president. Yet, when we stand up to a Democratic governor, for principles that we fought for for decades, we somehow are, we’re in a civil war. I don’t look at it that way. We’re just taking our years of experience and fighting for what we believe in,” Greenwald said.

John McKeon is from North Jersey and is perceived as a Murphy Democrat.

“I’m concerned to the extent that I think, from the big picture, as to what’s happening in Washington, we as Democrats should all be speaking with one voice. That being said, I’ve been around for a long time now, and come July I know we’ll have a budget. I think sooner than later, and in some form or the other, they’re going to move on cannabis in a way that will be legal throughout the state of New Jersey. And how things will play out as it related to criticism of the EDA is going to play outside of the Legislature, truth be told. My colleagues from South Jersey are capable and intelligent individuals. They care a lot about their region of the state and they’ve been successful in bringing the resources they have down to Camden,” McKeon said.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli, another key South Jersey player, says things will sort themselves out.

“It’s very clear as he [Norcross] has been quoted as saying that he feels strongly, and I can tell you personally that his love of the city of Camden, it runs very deep. And for those of us that are nearby there, what’s taking place there is different after 50 years of failed attempts and probably multiple billions of dollars poured in in state money. So we see a lot of progress there. Those that are critical of it maybe aren’t looking close enough,” Burzichelli said.

Assemblyman Tom Giblin is a former state Democratic chairman and current assemblyman who says the glass is half-full.

“There’s no reason why this can’t be worked out and I think it just needs some cool heads and maybe some diplomacy, a mediator if there’s such a person out there that can bring both side together and work toward a solution that’s good for New Jersey and the Democratic Party,” Giblin said. “Perhaps a retired person, a guy like Jim Florio or Jim McGreevey, somebody of that caliber that has a lot of insight and been down the road before in other issues and disputes.”

The Democrats are minimizing the seriousness of the breach, but Norcross is talking about running someone against Murphy in the next gubernatorial primary, and that’s pretty serious.