How one election left this powerful Democratic organization fighting to survive

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TRENTON, N.J. — It took three decades for Democratic power broker George Norcross to build one of the most effective and influential political machines in the country. It took one night for the operation to lose its biggest public figure.

The insurance executive, who has never held elected office, had seized near-absolute control over elections in much of southern New Jersey. He funneled seemingly endless campaign cash to support his allies and crush his foes. His allies won every Democratic legislative seat south of Trenton.

It all put Norcross and his hand-picked state Senate president, childhood friend Steve Sweeney, in a position to drive virtually every major policy decision in the state, from culling public worker benefits to creating a massive tax incentive program that doled out billions. Their partnership with former Gov. Chris Christie made the Republican’s early success possible.

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