State Sen. Donald Norcross spent part of his morning Tuesday assigning work for three or four union electricians.
He described it as a small victory, given the 300-plus in his union who are still unemployed.
A former electrician who splits time between working as a labor leader and state senator, Norcross said spurring job creation in South Jersey has been his top priority during his six-year tenure in the Legislature. Now he wants to continue that work in Washington as the 1st Congressional District's representative.
"Sometimes when you look at what's going on in this country and you see that dysfunctional family down there (in Washington), they've pretty much forgotten at times what they're down there to do — and that is certainly to make sure there's a good place and a good job for every American," Norcross said Tuesday during an interview with the Burlington County Times Editorial Board.
"Moving forward, I'll remember that," he said.
Norcross, a Democratic Pennsauken native who lives in Camden, is running for the open seat vacated by Rep. Rob Andrews. While he's hugely favored in the solidly Democratic district, which is made up of most of Camden County as well as a large part of Gloucester County and the Burlington County towns of Maple Shade and Palmyra, he is facing a well-known Republican opponent in Garry Cobb, a former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker who also has worked as a sports talk-radio personality and blogger.
Norcross didn't mention his opponent during the editorial board interview. Instead, he focused on his own record in the Legislature as well as the challenges he expects to face if elected to Congress.
Job No. 1, he said, would be to extend federal unemployment benefits for out-of-work residents living in states still struggling to recover from the recession. He also wants federal action to help address the ongoing foreclosure crisis.
"When you talk about this election, it's all about jobs and the economy," Norcross said. "New Jersey has certainly been lagging in the economic recovery."
He touted his work in the Legislature helping to craft the Economic Opportunity Act, which overhauled the state's tax incentives for businesses and new development. Among the changes, the law boosted the incentives available for businesses locating or expanding in South Jersey.
The incentives have proved key to economic development in the region, particularly Camden, where the Philadelphia 76ers plan to build a practice facility and where Holtec International will build a manufacturing plant.
"Holtec (which has offices in Evesham) could have literally gone anywhere in the world to produce what they're calling small module reactors. But they chose Camden because of the economic incentives, because of its access to the river, because of its access to rail and quality people," he said. "They're not going to just design. They're going to build. ... It's an extremely bright spot on the horizon."
During the interview, Norcross said he believes the Affordable Care Act has resulted in tremendous improvements in the nation's health care system, including coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and young adults. However, like most complicated bills, some common-sense fixes are needed, he said.
"There's never been a program as massive as the one we're talking about without changes. We have small bills in Trenton we pass and then find out, through implementation and experience, we need to fix some things," he said. "There has not been one fix to the Affordable Care Act because that dysfunctional family (in Washington) can't get together."
If elected, Norcross said he plans to ask to be assigned to the Armed Services Committee to be a voice for the defense of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst against Department of Defense cuts. The base is New Jersey's second-largest employer, and its importance to the region's economy is crucial.
"I don't care if you're an R or a D or an Independent, we're going to work together to save the base," he said.