He’s never held public office.
He hasn’t officially held any position within the Camden County Democratic Party in nearly two decades.
But that hasn’t stopped George Norcross III from being named this year’s most powerful non-elected player in New Jersey politics by PolitickerNJ.com.
Norcross, a Cherry Hill resident who's widely considered South Jersey’s most powerful Democratic leader, is no stranger to the political website’s annual power list—he’s been ranked as high as No. 2 in previous years—but his moves over the past 12 months, including becoming part of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s ownership group and his work to reshape the state’s public colleges and universities put him atop the list this year.
“Often called the most influential non-elected individual in the state, Norcross seems to have his hand everywhere,” PolitickerNJ wrote in its summary. “The Senate president [Steve Sweeney] is his childhood friend and he has teamed with the governor on enough initiatives to make some in his party nervous.”
The head of insurance giant Conner Strong and the chair of Cooper Hospital’s board of trustees, Norcross wields plenty of power from behind the scenes, as PolitickerNJ pointed out both this year and in previous years.
With one brother, Donald, the co-chair of the Camden County Democrats, and another, Philip, the head of the politically connected law firm Parker McCay, which has donated around half a million dollars to various candidates in the past decade, mostly Democrats, Norcross can stretch his influence in a hurry.
"Nothing gets done in the majority Democratic caucuses of both houses without first passing muster in the South Jersey family of which Norcross is the undisputed political patriarch," PolitickerNJ wrote in a previous power list.
Of course, that influence hasn’t come without controversy—Norcross is something of a bogeyman among his opponents, an image perhaps most reflected by recordings made more than a decade ago, the infamous Palmyra Tapes, which portray him as a foul-mouthed power broker who bragged of his influence at all levels of government.
While those tapes eventually led to guilty pleas on tax fraud and campaign finance violations by three officials from the engineering firm JCA Associaties, Norcross was never charged with any wrongdoing.
The only thing Norcross wields more than influence is money, generating millions for South Jersey Democrats year after year and blowing away records—like the $4.2 million he helped put together to get Fred Madden elected a state senator over incumbent George Geist back in 2004.
"He is a human fundraising machine," PolitickerNJ wrote.