Tag Archives: They Have No Choice

They Have No Choice

South Jersey’s most powerful political boss, Commerce Bank executive George Norcross, has a certain style: You’re either part of his machine, or you get crushed by it. Can anybody stop him?



From high above the most dangerous streets in the nation, ­Camden looks like a city of promise, chest puffed out and swollen with pride, taking strong, confident strides toward its future. Just look to the north. The shiny, graffiti-free RiverLINE train rolls past the old RCA building, awaiting its makeover into high-end condos, and jogs on past Campbell’s Field and lifeless acres now earmarked for residential development. Imagine that—people moving into Camden. He’s had a hand in all of it.

Turn south and you’ll see the Tweeter Center, which has stolen summer concerts from the Mann across the river, so now everyone from Coldplay to Brooks & Dunn bypasses Philly and heads to South Jersey. Imagine that — Camden as a destination. He’s not surprised. He is George Norcross, and from the office window of one of his minions at the Delaware River Port Authority, the view is spectacular.

For Norcross, it’s not enough to have risen from his modest beginnings in Pennsauken to run Commerce Bank’s insurance division, complete with a seven-figure salary and some $88 million in stock. Not bad for a college dropout. But for Norcross, not bad is not nearly good enough. Not in business, and certainly not in politics, where the 49-year-old’s years of leading the Camden County Democrats and his fund-raising muscle have made him the most powerful boss south of Exit 7A, with considerable clout up the Turnpike as well. His Democratic faithful control Camden and Gloucester counties, the power seat of South Jersey, and pulls strings in most others. In Trenton, Norcross allies decide which judges are elected, the language of the state budget, and the passing of legislation. They also run agencies that fund million-dollar projects — those listed above and many, many more.

Like Camden from this aerial view, the machine Norcross has built in South Jersey is a thing of beauty from afar — a business-like plan that has ushered in a Democratic renaissance. But down on the street, where the heat rises off Admiral Wilson Boulevard like specters fleeing Hell, Camden’s portrait grows more ominous. So does the picture as one looks more closely at how Norcross commands power. This is where hardball politics ends and a culture of intimidation, dubbed “La Cosa Norcross” by his enemies, looms. His name is invoked in threatening phone calls, senators are F-bombed, and if his opponents are still kicking once they lose, he steps on their throats.

Norcross has long denied that side of his personality, and other than one slip-up in the statehouse a couple years back, it’s been tough to prove its existence. Then came the Palmyra tapes. A town councilman who claimed he was being threatened and bribed by Democratic loyalists to oust two enemies was wired, and in a recorded meeting, Norcross ordered him to “fire that fuck … get rid of [him] … and teach this jerk-off a lesson,” and said of the other that he was doing “everything humanly possible … things that are distasteful” to install him as a judge, which Norcross said was “the only way I can get rid of him.” More important, in light of this year’s governor’s race, was this: “In the end, the McGreeveys, the Corzines, they’re all going to be with me. Not because they like me, but because they have no choice.”

“I look at him with a combination of disdain and respect,” says one longtime GOP strategist. “The stuff he’s done outside the political sphere is appalling. But the political guy in me says, ‘God, he’s good. I wish I’d done that.’” And what greases the wheels of his Democratic woodchipper, grinding up and spitting out his enemies across the state, isn’t money. It isn’t some grand vision he has for South Jersey. Pull back the curtain on the Wizard, and you’ll find that all the regional improvements he’s demanded and the windfall of state aid he’s guided to Camden weren’t acts of philanthropy. Norcross simply wants to win.

With dusk turning to darkness over Cherry Hill, George Norcross has already been awake for nearly 20 hours, which is why he’s now on his third espresso at Lamberti’s on Route 70, just miles from his Commerce Bank office and his home, which a friend once teasingly called Tara, à la Gone with the Wind. Lamberti’s seems to be his Cheers, where everybody not only knows his name; some even share it. His brother Philip is seated three tables away. I am not introduced. His 17-year-old daughter, Lexie, walks in for dinner with an old family friend, a Camden attorney. As for meeting Norcross’s wife of 20 years, ­Sandy, or their eight-year-old son, Alex — no dice. The hostess greets Norcross personally, and a young businessman stops by the table to pay his respects. When he introduces the strawberry-blonde with him to “Mr. Norcross,” her eyes swell with awe as she shakes his hand.

Throughout our five-hour dinner, Norcross rarely speaks on the record — and, not surprisingly, he isn’t interested in being tape-recorded — but he does address one critical question: What happened to the CAN DO CLUB sign? The placard he hung on his office door when he became head of the Camden County Democrats at just 32 said it all: CAN DO CLUB. MEMBERS ONLY. Either you’re in or you’re out. “It’s still on my desk,” he says. “That struck me as an affirmative outlook on success. Too often it’s ‘can’t do.’ It’s motivation to work harder than anyone else. Here’s a phrase you can use — second place is first loser. I love that.”

“George is the most competitive person I’ve ever met,” says Center City attorney Arthur Makadon. That includes half the athletes who have played in Philadelphia in the past 20 years, most of the lawyers, and anyone of stature in regional politics, including Governor Ed Rendell. “If I was in a foxhole, I’d want him in there with me.” Which has made George Norcross and South Jersey the perfect match. Philadelphia, if you think you have an inferiority complex, let me introduce you to your neighbor to the east.

Where Philly gets lost between bookends of the Greatest City in the World and the nation’s capital, South Jersey has long felt forgotten in its own state. While the North is all muscle and industry, wealth and power well-lit by Manhattan’s glow, the South is the gal who never gets asked to dance — farmlands, strip malls, and a seaside playground for Philadelphians who mock her, yet claim her beaches in the summer as their own. Folks in the lower eight counties were once derisively referred to by Northerners as “609ers,” slang for their area code and shorthand for toothless hicks. Since 75 percent of the state’s voting population and the majority of its Senate and Assembly members are from the North, for decades South Jersey never enjoyed the attention — read: money — that its neighbors did. The South even tried to secede from the state in the ’80s, and, of course, upheld its tradition of losing. Then came 1991, when Governor Jim Florio’s $2.8 billion in tax increases made New Jersey look like Boston circa 1773, only it was Democrats being tossed into the river. The party had no message. It was in shambles, desperate for direction. South Jersey was ready for Norcross.

His career started early, and power came fast. His father led the South Jersey AFL-CIO, and brought his teenage son to business meetings with him. After dropping out of Rutgers-Camden, Norcross listened to his old man and got both his real estate and insurance licenses. He’d later ignore his father’s advice to steer clear of politicians. “He valued loyalty as a most important trait, and felt it was lacking in politics and government,” Norcross says. “He felt if I devoted my efforts to business and charity, my time would be better spent.” The oldest of four sons and a natural leader, Norcross built his Keystone National Companies from an office in Camden with a single phone and chair into a multimillion-dollar company. By 1989, he was running the Camden County Democrats, and two years later, he’d laid out his blueprint for success and cemented himself as a political colossus.

As many Norcross operations either begin or end, this one was personal. State Senator Lee Laskin, an immovable Republican force, might still be in office if he hadn’t blocked the appointment of Norcross’s dad, a big fan of the ponies, to the New Jersey Racing Commission. Before the 1991 Senate race began, Norcross paid Laskin a visit and asked him for a favor. Help my father. Please. Laskin blew him off, and Norcross left with one thought in mind — Lee Laskin must go.

Norcross devised a plan of attack that focused on both the big picture and his backyard: Laskin’s State Senate seat, and the Camden County freeholder board, which today oversees a $289 million operating budget and influences the appointment of countless jobs. Control the freeholders, and you control the county. String a few counties together, and you overcome their weakness in the legislature with sheer fund-raising might. Combine that financial strength with influence in the Assembly and the Senate, and you’ve built hotels on every square from Mediterranean Avenue to Boardwalk.

Norcross recruited fresh faces to put a reformist spin on the party — Harvard grad John Adler, son of a poor dry cleaner, would vie against Laskin, and two promising young lawyers, Jeff Nash and Vince Sarubbi, would run for freeholder. In a simple yet innovative move, Norcross found his last candidate, former Highland High School football coach Jim Beach, by mailing questionnaires to folks with no experience in public service. (Beach showed up at his first interview in Norcross’s office waving his tax bill.) With Beach as Everyman, Sarubbi the charmer and Nash the policy hound, Norcross had his dream team, later dubbed the Three Amigos.

Despite the chummy nickname and the fond memories all share from that race, as a leader, Norcross is a combination of Machiavelli and Sun Tzu, with a pinch of Donald Trump — a friend who invited Norcross to his third wedding, in January. “I love being with George because every outing is a competitive one,” says Trump. “A lot of people don’t like him because he’ll cut a conversation short. He doesn’t need to talk for 10 minutes about something he can say in five.” Indeed, in meetings, when Norcross is done speaking to you, he might ignore you completely. He’s stingy with compliments, blunt with criticism, and he uses his reputation to his advantage. As Beach puts it, “I wouldn’t want to cross him.” Another advantage of injecting new blood into the party is this: He can make them, and then they’re his. “I’ve adopted my father’s code of loyalty,” Norcross says. “Those who do not do likewise have met judgment.”

And with him, you win. Norcross pursues victory at literally all costs, raking in $1.9 million for Adler and the Amigos, a then-unheard-of sum for just a county race and a legislative seat, and even took out a personal loan for $250,000 to help his cause. While the Republicans did things the way they were always done in New Jersey — thinking small, not raising more money than they thought they needed — Norcross hired Stan Greenberg, Bill Clinton’s pollster, and local strategist Neil Oxman helped craft “silver bullets” — crippling ads portraying Laskin’s law office and legislative office as one and the same. Others featured grainy photos of the Amigos’ opponents at public events blinking, yawning, scratching their noses — as still frames, it looked like the guys were sleeping or knuckle-deep into their nostrils. To this day, one still jokes, à la Seinfeld, “It wasn’t a pick! It was outside the nose!”

With 17 days left before Election Day and Laskin leading by 25 points in the polls, Norcross delivered his pièce de résistance — running 30-second spots, not on the local news, but during an Eagles Monday Night Football contest, game seven of the World Series, and other network shows. Adler won by 10 points. All three Amigos were also victorious — the only Democrats to defeat incumbents anywhere in the state that year. Norcross’s gamble earned him an instant reputation far beyond Camden County. As a Republican strategist who worked on that campaign puts it, “He changed the game.”

You would think that a guy who had already ripped his left knee apart four times would give it a break already with the athletics — that common sense would rope in his raging competitive ego. The last time Norcross’s ACL turned to oatmeal was during a pickup basketball game in 1997. “After 20 years, I still thought I had that jump shot,” he says. “My wife was so pissed. She told me it was the last time she would help me after I act like I’m 18.” Yet Norcross still plays tennis, and he golfs at Galloway, the club he co-owns with Commerce Bank honcho Vernon Hill. Though his knee looks like Darth Vader’s with all the armor strapped to it, he attacks every point like it’s life or death. “If he doesn’t play well,” says Arthur Makadon, “he’ll spend hours and hours practicing. He hates to lose.”

In politics and business, Norcross doesn’t know much about defeat. Since his 1991 coup, he’s built an impregnable barricade of influence that surrounds the county and his interests like fortifications around a medieval castle. It starts with the circle of four: Camden’s Joe Roberts, majority leader of the Assembly and poised to become speaker; Wayne Bryant, Senate Budget Committee chairman, also of Camden; Lou Greenwald of Voorhees, Assembly Budget Committee chair; and Adler, who now approves all of the state’s highest appointees as Senate Judiciary Committee chair and sits on the Committee on Ethical Standards. All of the Amigos went on to greater success as well — Beach is the Camden County clerk, Sarubbi is the county prosecutor, and Nash serves as vice chairman of the Delaware River Port Authority, which puts Norcross within a phone call of the $95 million the DRPA will dump into various projects this year. And of course, they call him: Adler counts Norcross among the few he consults before making legislative decisions, and Nash admits that he won’t make a move that Norcross might object to without speaking to him first.

If you sketched a flow chart of the Norcross machine as a business model, two of the largest branches would lead to three words, circled in a fat-tipped red marker: LABOR and COMMERCE BANK. Norcross handed control of the Camden County Democrats to his brother, Donald, who keeps their father’s legacy alive as the leader of South Jersey’s AFL-CIO. On Election Day, labor becomes George’s army, grunts getting out the vote and outnumbering the ragtag GOP foot soldiers 34-1. Their reward for the hard work? Jobs on projects funded by counties, the DRPA, and other ­acronymed agencies headed by Norcross pals. Since joining Commerce in 1996, Norcross has been credited with tripling the bank’s government deposits, and his insurance division serves more than half of the state’s municipalities. All part of his statewide plan.

Then there’s Cooper University Hospital. His father was a board member there, as Norcross is today, and it looms in monolithic tribute to what happens when Norcross stands in your corner. To show off his crown jewel, Norcross meets me at Cooper’s cancer center in Voorhees and, ever the man in the background, invites a group of docs along to do the talking while he stays on the fringes, saying little. The Cooper team, though, is quick to point out how the hospital was on the brink of collapse in 1990 when Norcross took over — hiring then-U.S. Attorney Michael Chertoff, now Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to straighten out its books. Norcross ran the nonprofit like a business and, most recently, carved out $29 million for the hospital from the state budget and Trenton’s $175 million Camden Revitalization Package. That’s on top of the tens of millions more that will trickle into Cooper’s pockets from various state departments, including health, community affairs, and, oddly, transportation. Norcross changed the hospital’s image as well. Those Kelly Ripa commercials you can’t escape? She did them for free, a $1.5 million favor to her friend George, who’s also a friend of her dad, Joe Ripa, who happens to have been a Camden County freeholder since 2003, after Kelly skyrocketed to national fame. A second round of pro bono Ripa commercials is already blanketing the airwaves.

As we leave Cooper’s chemotherapy recovery room, a doctor friend of Norcross’s father explains how patients and funding were drifting from South Jersey to Pennsylvania, New York, and the northern half of the state. “I’ve been told that $2 billion worth of medical money was leaving. … ” He pauses and looks at Norcross: “Is that fair to say?” Norcross nods. He eventually breaks his silence to brag a little before a Lincoln Navigator pulls up — Norcross has a driver on call at all times — and whisks him away for a meeting with someone whose identity he doesn’t reveal. “In the next two to three years,” he says, “cancer care will be provided to people in South Jersey by Cooper almost completely.” It’s not a sense of civic pride or a Christ-like healing of the sick that’s behind the grin stealing across his face — unusual for Norcross, who rarely smiles when he speaks. He’s just letting me know that he’s about to win again.

There are some who say that New Jersey’s Civil War is about as real as the cloven-hoofed devil who roams the Pine Barrens. They say Norcross is full of it when he declares that he steals from the “robber barons” of the North and gives to the needy of the South. Here’s what’s not a myth: Norcross can raise more money than anyone in the history of the state and use it against whomever he chooses, as he did in his $4.4 million campaign that dethroned GOP stalwart George Geist in 2003 — a State Senate victory two times more costly per vote than Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral run in New York. In the last month of the Geist race, Camden County Democrats received $1.2 million in loans, including the maximum of $37,000 each from Norcross, four of his relatives, and at least six others with connections to Commerce Bank; money also came in from some other, curious folks, like two women from the same Cherry Hill address whose occupations are listed in Democratic records as “homemaker” and “unemployed.” (Loans from those women and just over $800,000 more have yet to be repaid.) He can even avoid a costly race by simply buying you out, as he did by installing Republican Senator John Matheussen in a $195,000-a-year job as head of the DRPA.

He’s also proven that his plan for using county governments as his power base and building upward was dead-on. In Camden and Gloucester counties, with the Dems raising millions more than what their opponents scrape together, Norcross is left with seven-figure leftovers he then “wheels” to help overthrow key Northern counties like Bergen and Essex, and squeeze the life out of the opposition. “Any Republican with a public service contract is told if they contribute to the GOP, they will lose their contracts and their candidates will lose their jobs,” claims Guy Talarico, Bergen County’s GOP chairman. “You don’t get good government. You get a puppet who owes his job to a boss from the southern half of the state.” Clearly, the tug-of-war between North and South is more than hype.

Worse than the toll Norcross’s tactics take on individuals is the collective accumulated dread that’s crippled the opposition. “We have a real problem recruiting new talent,” says Richard Ambrosino, who has faced Norcross in the past and is on the ballot for Cherry Hill’s town council this November. “They just don’t want to go through all of that — the negative campaigning, the personal attacks. Norcross intimidates before and after the race.” One insider admits that when Norcross hears of a Republican talent, he works hard to recruit that all-star to his team, and is often successful.

Hardball politics, yes. Inching toward the line of impropriety? Sure. But what’s made Norcross so effective is that when he exacts his vengeance or throws his weight around, it’s either behind closed doors or through intermediaries — hence the nickname “La Cosa Norcross.” That is, until 2002, when he stepped out of the shadows and into the office of Senate co-president John Bennett to demand $25 million for a proposed civic arena in Pennsauken. Norcross denies that a shoving match ensued, as others have said, but what’s certain is Norcross’s last words, as he left without getting what he wanted: “I will fucking destroy you.” Adding to his frustration, says one source, was that two weeks prior, Bennett had declined Norcross’s offer to “get his South Jersey guys together” and make him Senate president. Not coincidentally, Norcross’s tough talk proved prophetic. Bennett was defeated in an ugly campaign the following year. “That was the worst time of my life,” says Bennett. “He has those who stand in his way defeated or removed. I will never seek public office again.”

This is why those Palmyra tapes have everyone salivating — they suggest that the stories about Norcross’s behind-the-scenes behavior are indeed true, and, more troublesome, that his vindictive aggression outside the political arena bleeds into it. The tales are everywhere. When developer and Norcross persona non grata Irv Richter was nominated for an award at Rutgers-Camden, a Norcross attorney kindly alerted the committee to a six-month jail term 30 years in Richter’s past. (The conviction had since been expunged.) After his use of non-union labor on a $46 million Cherry Hill renovation held up construction permits and cost $600,000 in delays, developer Bill Healey started seeing invitations to Norcross fund-raisers in his mailbox. Businessman Roy Goldberg sued the South Jersey Transportation Authority — considered to be a Norcross patronage den — after he refused to consult with Norcross, as an SJTA official told him to, and a $21 million parking garage he was building at the Atlantic City airport was killed. The suit was settled in March, and Goldberg refuses to comment further.

The tales of Norcross’s bullying grow more ominous. One prominent South Jerseyan received phone calls from someone who name-dropped “George,” promising that if the man campaigned for office, it would get ugly. He never ran. Then there was the county GOP candidate whose employer was very supportive of his efforts. Once the employee lost the election, though, he lost his job — and his employer reeled in a hefty contract from an agency stocked with Norcross devotees. Even the wife of a Norcross-installed pol got into the act at a social function, telling the wife of a Republican on the verge of a campaign, “You don’t want to do this.” Norcross, of course, laughs the stories off, as if they’re nothing more than modern-day Grimm fairy tales, born of imagination. But these anecdotes — and several others like them — were told with hushed voices and the nervous demand that the storytellers never be identified. In other words, the fear is real.

That so many people who say they’ve been burned by Norcross and his lieutenants are so reluctant to speak on the record about their tribulations only underscores the depth and reality of his power. Even the press isn’t immune to his influence. Norcross has enough ex-reporters on his side to compete with the Courier-Post he loathes: Former Courier staffers Ken Shuttleworth, Bill Shralow, Kevin McElroy and Carl Winter all have jobs with or ties to Camden County. Longtime Courier writer Dennis Culnan is now one of Norcross’s chief researchers, and also has contracts with Cooper Hospital and Camden’s South Jersey Port Corporation; his son works for the SJTA.

Other journalists have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with Norcross behind the scenes — he shovels them dirt on his opponents, they get a few days of copy. Reporters who are perceived to betray Norcross are dealt with in kind. His cordial relationship with the Courier’s Alan Guenther ended when Guenther wrote a revealing three-part series calling him “Boss Norcross.” This was followed by a smear campaign aimed at Guenther and his father, a local architect whose firm donated more than $11,000 to the Camden County Democrats. Always standing in the background, Norcross let his lawyer do the dirty work, sending the newspaper a seven-page letter that attacked Guenther’s father for “solicitation of no-bid contracts” and other offenses, while outlining the reporter’s “conflicts of interest” and “vigilante tactics.” Guenther declined to comment on the matter, and despite Norcross’s efforts, he remains at the Courier.

The Palmyra tapes have sent newspapers and political groupies from both sides into a frenzy, listening for the thump of that fabled other shoe dropping in the form of a federal indictment. Don’t hold your breath, folks. Consider that in 2000, Jon Corzine launched his own investigation into Norcross and Florio, his opponent for the Senate, and nothing surfaced. Norcross may fight dirty, but thus far, he’s no criminal. No indictments. No laws broken.

He is, however, nibbling at every station of the power buffet. State Attorney General Peter Harvey is a friend of the attorney who represented a Commerce Bank exec in the Philadelphia corruption probe, and has been criticized for what some say is his kid-gloves treatment of the Norcross probe. Now the feds have taken over. More impressive than Norcross’s relationship with Harvey is his pal Chertoff, who invited Norcross to his 50th birthday at Deux Cheminées and has connections that flow through every artery in the justice system. Norcross is plugged in at home as well. Those around-the-clock drivers he’s hired? Ex-state cops.

Now the gubernatorial combatants are squaring off, and the GOP is out to hang Norcross around Corzine’s neck. But Corzine may be the only one in a position to take on the Norcross machine in a year when at least 75 of Norcross’s chums are on the ballot — and that’s a conservative estimate. Corzine is the sole Democrat whose pockets are deeper than all those Norcross can dig into. With Trenton merely a stopover in Corzine’s inexorable march toward a presidential run, he could make dismantling New Jersey’s boss system the biggest achievement on his thin political résumé.

Still, the future for Norcross’s foes seems bleak, given that the North Jersey billionaire who could potentially topple the South Jersey superboss gave Norcross $700,000 in one year alone, prompting a campaign contribution limit nicknamed “Corzine’s Law.” Corzine, it seems, also likes to be on the winning team.

There is one question he knows he can’t dodge. Norcross has told friends that his behavior on the Palmyra tapes is an embarrassment, an aberration, a moment of bravado, like an actor playing a role. But what about his behavior in John Bennett’s Senate office? Over dinner back at Lamberti’s, he grimaces, rolling his lips up over his teeth, then speaks in a slow, measured clip.

“It was a moment I was not proud of,” he says. “The only consolation was that I was fighting for South Jersey. There have been times when my passion and intensity have gotten the better of me, and I’ve acted in ways that would not have made my mother proud. … Running for office is not for the squeamish or faint of heart. They are intimidated to run against us. They are intimidated by our potential to raise money, by our use of network television and our intense research of public records.”

What Norcross either won’t admit or can’t see is that the guy on those tapes is the same one who went toe-to-toe with Bennett. It’s not an act. It’s not theater. What he truly regrets is not his Don Corleone posturing — just that he was stupid enough to let some toadies he could easily have ignored or eliminated lead him into a federal probe and a public embarrassment. One wonders if in all his competitive bravado, his hardwired need to win at tennis, or golf, or with his hospital vs. theirs and North against South, he’s lost sight of what it’s all about. When asked if he could leave all this behind, he says he’d like to, someday, maybe once his son leaves for college, maybe sooner. He’d have to say goodbye to New Jersey, though, or else they’d pull him back in. He’d like to head to Florida, he says. (Two weeks later, Commerce announces its expansion into the Sunshine State.) No, he’s not concerned with who would run the shop. Successor? Doesn’t know. What if the wheels fall off once he’s gone? Norcross is speechless.

He doesn’t separate what’s best for him from what’s best for South Jersey because he truly believes it’s one and the same. Good politics, good government, the best and brightest, join the can-do club, with us or against us, help me help the kids and the cancer patients or we’ll fucking destroy you. Running counties like businesses comes at a price — Commerce Bank isn’t a democracy, and right now, Camden County doesn’t look like one, either. They know what South Jersey needs, and if you don’t like it, well, tough shit; they can direct you to the bridges their friends oversee. As deeply entangled as Norcross has become in the fibers that hold South Jersey together, his is a dangerous point of view to hold. He and his friends have done plenty to improve life in South Jersey, and guys like Jim Beach and others seem to have the best intentions. They, however, are accountable. George Norcross is not considered a lobbyist under New Jersey law. You can’t get him on the phone. You can’t vote him out of office.

The restaurant is nearly deserted by the time we get up to go, and though I never see Norcross call for his driver, his chariot is already idling curbside, ready to carry him off to parts unknown. Cars fly by on Route 70, and I recall an anecdote about a union electrician who saw Norcross on this same highway recently, not far from where we’re standing. “Don’t let the papers get you down!” he yelled to his hero from his pickup. “Fuck ’em!”

“So what kind of story is this going to be?” Norcross asks. Don’t know yet, I say. Might explore whether you’re the best thing to happen to South Jersey, or Satan with a Commerce Bank lapel pin. His face registers no response.

“I don’t think I’d like that,” he says. Minutes later, as the taillights of his Lincoln fade from view, Norcross disappears into the shadows.

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