NEWARK – In the hours just before the 78th Annual New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Walk to Washington train ride, the networking and politicking took place at a furious pace inside the Newark Hilton pre-game event.
Fueled on eggs and coffee, with some less timid souls taking advantage of the bar being open at 8:30 a.m., a full array of New Jersey politicos commenced the meeting and greeting, the plotting and scheming, that is a critical part of the Walk to Washington.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6), state Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21), and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy, both potential 2017 Democratic gubernatorial candidates, all made the scene with a host of others, all talking politics in advance of the main event.
One of the goals of those going on the ride is to try to hit all 13 cars of the chartered train.
State Assemblywomen Grace Spencer (D-29) and Holly Schepisi (R-39) offered bipartisan advice on how to get through the maddening crowd and get work done.
“I’ve been on the train enough to know how to maneuver – how to make connections I need to make in order to move certain legislation, do things that are important to my constituents and how to get away from things that are not going to be productive,” said Spencer, who is eight months pregnant. “And this year, I know I will ruthlessly get through it all. They have to give me extra room.”
“In prior years, I’ve found that the trip was more productive than I thought it was going to be,” said Schepisi, who is not making the trip this year. “You’ve got to move around the partying and get to the productive conversations. It can be a phenomenal way to meet people. My goal is always to touch the front of the train to the back and talk to as many people as possible in-between. I do it by smiling at the men, and they let me through. Or just tell everybody that there is free alcohol in another car.”
As for another train veteran who is not making the ride this year, the trip can be revelatory.
“The first time I went on the train was 45 years ago, i went down to D.C., and I realized how much I missed my son, Greg,” said state Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28). “The next morning, I hopped a plane with some senator and went right back home to North 13th Street In Newark. I couldn’t wait to get back.”