Never heard of George Norcross? Here’s why you need to.

8:23 p.m. Correction: A previous version of this post said that George Norcross controls the endorsement process at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Norcross spokesman Dan Fee said he does not have control of or oversight over the editorial board.  

Almost as swiftly as word surfaced Tuesday that Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) plans to resign from Congress, a replacement was all but anointed.

If he wins, it will be a boon to one of the most powerful figures in politics most people have probably never heard of.

Rep Rob Andrews (D-N.J.), pictured above, is resigning. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Rep Rob Andrews (D-N.J.), pictured above, is resigning. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

The anointed candidate we're talking about is state Sen. Donald Norcross, a powerful Democratic labor leader with an even more powerful brother: George Norcross, New Jersey's unofficial political boss. If Donald Norcross is elected to replace Andrews -- a special election could be held later this year -- it would put another close ally of George Norcross in elected office, further consolidating his power.

"I am running for Congress because South Jersey needs someone who is going to stand up for us in Washington, D.C., as Rob Andrews has done for more than two decades," said Donald Norcross in a statement announcing his candidacy -- on the same day, it's worth noting, that Andrews announced his plan to resign. (One wonders whether Norcross might have known the resignation was coming?)

Support for Norcross was quick and widespread in Democratic circles Tuesday. PolitickerNJ published a running list of officials rallying behind him. It's long. And it includes big names like state Senate President Stephen Sweeney. Even Andrews backs him.

The Norcross name is very familiar to virtually any Democrat with designs on rising through the political ranks in South Jersey. George Norcross is a wealthy insurance executive who has become one of the most powerful figures in Democratic Party, despite never holding any elected position.

"His influence has been felt throughout the state for more than a decade," read a 2007 Gannett story about him. "From multimillion-dollar development deals funded by taxpayer dollars to raising millions of dollars for legislative races, Norcross seems omnipresent on the political scene."

A glance at federal campaign finance reports shows that he has donated thousands of dollars to candidates. But that's just a snapshot of the power George Norcross wields.

A group with ties to to him spent more than $8 million in state legislative races last year. Meanwhile, George Norcross recently became the majority owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the largest paper in Andrews' district, which lies in suburban Philadelphia and leans heavily Democratic.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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