By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
There’s a “Tribute to Senator William Gormley” at the Trump Taj Mahal this week. I won’t be there. To me, Gormley represents all that is rotten with politics today.
For 25 years, Bill Gormley controlled the Republican Party here in Atlantic County. Yet his power came from Democrats.
When 31 year old Bill Gormley first became a Republican freeholder in 1975, Democrats Steve Perskie (Assemblyman), Pat McGahn (brother of State Senator Joe McGahn), and Chuck Worthington (County Executive) ran Atlantic County.
But two years later, in 1977, Perskie challenged McGahn, and took the State Senate seat away from McGahn’s brother.
This enraged Pat McGahn, who had just done lots of legal work for Resorts International.?? McGahn was paid mostly with company stock worth a dollar a share.?? When Resorts opened Atlantic City’s first casino in 1978, and its stock jumped to $160, Pat McGahn became one of the richest men in the state.?
In 1981, Pat McGahn’s brother became a Republican and teamed up with Gormley to knock out Perskie.?? Democrat Perskie won in spite of McGahn’s money, but was too tired and broke to do it again in 1983.?? So in 1982 Perskie made a deal.
Republican Governor Tom Kean made Democrat Steve Perskie a judge. Then the Perskie and McGahn Democrats let Republican Bill Gormley walk into Perskie’s Senate Seat.
Republican Bill Gormley easily won re-election to the State Senate seven more times during the next 25 years. Each time, Atlantic County Democrats took a dive for Gormley. Gormley often returned the favor by going soft with Democrats like Sheriff Jim McGettigan.
Gormley only had problems when he ran against Republicans. He almost lost to jitney driver Dominic Cappella in the 1991 Republican primary. He lost three Republican primaries when he tried to advance to Congress, Governor, and U.S. Senate.
Last January, Gormley quit politics when he realized that the Democrats would run a real campaign against for the first time in his career? What did Bill Gormley do with his 25 years of power?
Gormley set up the CRDA (Casino Reinvestment Development Authority) so that no money could be spent on needed schools or road improvements.?? Instead, billions were wasted on building and tearing down three new bus stations in Atlantic City, lavish convention centers, stadiums, theaters, and other expensive buildings that are empty most of the time.?? Gormley also changed the CRDA law so that only union contractors did the work, and appointed CRDA officials who gave sweetheart jobs and contracts to his friends.
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gormley appointed and re-appointed judges who scrapped the death penalty, created the loophole that let the state borrow $16 billion without voter approval, and who let Frank Lautenberg replace disgraced candidate Frank Toricelli as Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate just weeks before the election, in violation of established election law. And of course Gormley’s judges were OK with eminent domain, and Pinelands and Wetlands laws that took land WITHOUT compensation. Why? Gormley approved nominees to get dollars and jobs for Gormley friends.
Gormley bankrupted the state and killed reform. Gormley was part of the Republican 1980’s spending spree that set up the big Democrat tax hikes of Governor Jim Florio in 1990. When the Republicans came back in 1993, it was Republican Gormley who killed the complete rollback of the Florio tax hikes, along with the term limit, initiative and referendum reforms promised by Republicans. Republican Gormley crippled the state’s recall law by doubling the signature requirements.
Gormley doomed NJ’s casino industry. Gormley made it illegal for most casino people to run for public office, support candidates, or even speak out on political issues. The whole industry is hostage to Local 54 and every Ward Councilman in Atlantic City.
And finally, Gormley made himself rich.?? The web site of Gormley’s current law firm of DLA Piper in East Brunswick brags that he specializes in “land use and economic revitalization”. Did Gormley’s legislation and appointees help clients of his law firms from time to time?
Who would honor this man? That is the nature of despotism. The harm Bill Gormley did to most people brought great wealth to a privileged few. They will gladly pay $110 per ticket for his tribute this week.