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George Norcross indictment points to changing political landscape in New Jersey, professor says

How did George Norcross influence New Jersey politics for the past 50 years?
How did George Norcross influence New Jersey politics for the past 50 years? 02:29

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The fallout continues a day after prominent New Jersey power broker George Norcross was hit with state racketeering charges. 

Norcross and five others were charged Monday related to properties built along the Camden waterfront. 

While Norcross often worked behind the scenes, he has made a major political impact on the state over the last 50 years.

"It's really hard to capture that in just a few minutes," Tina Zappile, of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy with Stockton University, said. 

The indictment of Norcross sent shockwaves through New Jersey. While Norcross has never held elected office, Zappile said he served as the power broker in South Jersey politics for the last five decades.

"Wielding influence to legislation including both Democratic and Republican governors," Zappile said. "Being able to wield influence to select who runs for the party."

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New Jersey power broker George Norcross was hit with state racketeering charges on Monday along with five others. AP

Norcross was the former chair of the Camden County Democratic Party and a member of the Democratic National Committee until 2021. But Zappile says his biggest impact may have been his ability to raise the political profile of South Jersey.

"For better and for worse, he was able to influence Trenton in a way that a lot of other politicians and major economic figures in South Jersey have been unable to do," Zappile said. 

On Monday, Norcross and five others, including his brother Philip and former Camden Mayor Dana Redd, were hit with racketeering and other charges. 

New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin said Norcross led the group and alleged he used coercion and extortion to acquire property and property rights along the Camden Waterfront to take advantage of state tax credits he helped pass. 

But the Norcross case is just the latest in what experts believe is a reckoning on state political establishments.  

"There appears, in general, to be a growing wave of intolerance of the old way of getting things done in New Jersey politics," Zappile said. 

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, who's held his seat since 2006, is in the middle of a federal corruption trial. 

Congressman Andy Kim earlier this year successfully challenged the state's longtime "county-line" ballots, which gave county officials sway over where candidates were positioned on ballots. 

Zappile said this all points to a changing political landscape in the Garden State.

"There could be a little bit of a scramble or vacuum for power," Zappile said. "Somebody's gotta fill that, so there is opportunity."

Both Norcross and Menendez have proclaimed their innocence in their cases.

Camden residents react to Norcross indictment 

Some Camden residents cheered about the racketeering charges brought against Norcross. About a dozen residents gathered in front of City Hall and said the influential figure has for too long held power over their local leaders.

"I believe that Camden residents are finally saying out loud that we're not the ones that are crazy, you all are the ones that are corrupt," said Ronsha Dickerson, who is a local activist and Camden resident. 

On Tuesday, current Camden Mayor Vic Carstarphen tried to distance the current administration from those past allegations.  

"Everyone has their opinions," Carstarphen said. "And whatever the opinions people have, I'm telling you, that doesn't resemble what we're doing every day."

However, Carstarphen acknowledged Norcross had some positive impact on the city.

Camden residents react to indictment of New Jersey power broker George Norcross 02:11

"A lot of the renaissance is here from people that cared about Camden, like him," Carstarphen said. 

Residents acknowledged those contributions but said they're limited to the waterfront and only served to benefit Norcross — not the city at large.

"I'm not seeing that same kind of rising where I live," Dickerson said. "I don't see the manicured lawns. I don't see great streetlights. I don't see opportunities for jobs and better income."

Residents said this indictment should serve as a warning to others inside city hall that change is coming.

"If anybody inside this building is part of the corruption that's been going on for 20 years, you need to pack your bags and resign," Dickerson said. 

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