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In Jersey, power vacuum is our No. 1 problem

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We obviously have 100 slots on our Power 100 list of the most influential people in New Jersey business.

And while there are certainly those wanting to know who came close but didn't make it (which we answer for the first time in our Best of the Rest feature below), there really was only one question: Are you going to make Chris Christie No. 1 again?

Spoiler alert: we did.

But unlike the previous four years of this list — when Christie was the no-doubt-about-it top choice — this year wasn't as certain. And when we talked to many of the top players in the state, we found they were just as conflicted.

There were legitimate concerns about how Christie's power and popularity have dropped dramatically since Bridgegate ... how an administration that started out making deals is now just trying not to make waves (as if simply voting “present” could be a presidential campaign strategy) ... how everything and everyone is paralyzed until he makes his big announcement (“Trenton is shut down”) ... how it's all about national ideas in 2015 (“Did you see the State of the State?”).

And, of course, there were some snarky thoughts, too.

Said one: “How can you be the most powerful person in New Jersey business if you're never actually in the state?”

Then there's this: If not Christie, who?

The only other person to get mentioned for the top spot is George Norcross, the one so many call the Governor of South Jersey.

An old-school party boss ... a powerbroker ... a kingmaker. And if the definition of power is that so many others are intimidated, well: “North Jersey is scared as hell about the prospect of his influence creeping any more north,” said one.

“You've got to give George Norcross an interesting look,” another insider said. “George Norcross is still playing here every day, and he's making moves, and he's trying to figure out who the next governor is going to be, and what he can still get out of this governor.”

Another used the transitive property to make the case for Norcross: The only reason Christie got so much done early is because of Steve Sweeney — and the only reason Steve Sweeney did so much with Christie was because of George Norcross.

Follow?

Such twisted logic hides the bigger issue: We have a power vacuum here.

Some say it's because of Christie's personality, some say it's because of the job (“They call the office the 'American Caesar' because of its powers,” one said.)

And don't get us started on how far behind we are on having more women in powerful positions (the guess is, they wouldn't have gotten us into this mess).

Whatever the reason, it leaves one man at the top, no matter how eye-catching (or site-clicking) it would be to have someone else.

“I understand that man-bites-dog aspect of (putting someone other than Christie in the top spot), but if you're talking reality, it's not even close,” another said. “George is not 1A, he's 2.”

In a state that has brought you so many reality shows, this is one that may actually have some truth to it.

 

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Tom Bergeron

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