Democrat Leaders Discuss Ouster of Assembly Speaker at Cherry Hill Fundraiser for Norcross
Thursday, April 28, 2016
At a Cherry Hill fundraiser last Thursday, George Norcross, the Democratic power broker, sounded out Bergen County Democratic Party Chairman Lou Stellato on a politically sensitive gambit.
According to Stellato, Norcross asked if he would support removing Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Secaucus, and replacing him with Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a Democrat from Englewood. To some Democrats, Prieto had become a problem because he has blocked a sweeping state takeover of Atlantic City that is backed by Norcross, Governor Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney.
But Stellato says he demurred, and generally expressed misgivings about taking such a Draconian step.
“We talked about the feasibility, the possibility of a thing happening, such as that and he was going to call me ... on Monday and never did,” Stellato said Tuesday.
Norcross, an insurance executive who is widely considered the most influential Democratic Party operative in New Jersey, declined to discuss the conversation, which was held at reception for his brother, Donald, a South Jersey congressman.
“Lou Stellato was kind enough to drive 2½ hours to attend my brother’s fundraiser and we had a few moments in private conversation,’’ Norcross said in an interview Tuesday. “Lou and I have regular and frequent conversations that are private and they’ll remain that way.”