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The N.J. Chamber Train to D.C. carried nearly 1,000 riders, the most in a decade

A view from inside the NJ Chamber's Chartered train to Washington, D.C.

The 2017 Walk to Washington filled 15 train cars. NJTV News called it, "a gathering of eagles, the state's most powerful business and political leaders riding the rails.". (Russ DeSantis Photography and Video, LLC). For more photos, click here.

Guests included Gov. Christie, both U.S. Senators, 10 House Members, 40 Legislators, 40 News Reporters, two candidates for governor and one Cardinal

The 80th Annual Walk to Washington and Congressional Dinner, on Feb. 16 and 17, 2017, was the biggest in a decade with nearly 1,000 of New Jersey's business and government leaders on board the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce's chartered Amtrak train to D.C.

NJTV News called it, "a gathering of eagles, the state's most powerful business and political leaders riding the rails."

Those boarding included state legislators, CEOs, small business owners, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit leaders who walked the train's aisle chatting and exchanging business cards. They discussed New Jersey's future, who will be the next governor, ways to stimulate economic growth, and the impact of President Donald Trump on the Garden State.

The 15-car train (two more cars than last year) whisked through New Jersey, picking up guests along the way. When it reached the nation's capital, guests gathered at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel for networking receptions and the Congressional Dinner featuring addresses by Gov. Chris Christie, U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and the dean of NJ's House delegation, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton).

Joseph Cardinal Tobin, the newly installed archbishop of Newark, rode the train and delivered the dinner's convocation. Tobin, one of the 120 cardinals in the Catholic Church, playfully said, "I thought my life peaked in Rome when the Pope put that red hat on my head. But then - there was the train."

Gov. Christie Reviews His Two Terms

When Gov. Christie took the podium, he touted his administration's achievements over the past seven- years. "We now have a lower unemployment rate than the national average, 278,000 new jobs and lower taxes than we had eight years ago," Christie said. "And, I am glad that we finally came to an agreement on the Transportation Trust Fund."

Christie said $32 billion will be invested into the state's roads, bridges and mass transportation infrastructure. "It is great for job creation and the condition of our state, and I am glad to have had your support to do it," the governor added.

Menendez and Booker Push Back on Immigration Rulings

Menendez voiced concerns regarding the latest federal rulings on immigration. "It is un-American in my view to relegate hard-working, contributing members of our society to the shadows," he said. "I know New Jersey has seen firsthand the value of immigrants in our state, in our industries, in our collective intellect, in our colleges and in our universities, and we know better."

Booker added, "If you think immigrants are taking from America, you have not run the numbers," he said. "The moral thing to do is also often the thing that is most in our economic interest."

Booker, meanwhile, praised Menendez for his ability to work across the aisle, which recently led to at least $1 billion in federal funding over five years towards the maintenance of New Jersey roads, and more than $600 million towards upgrading its transit systems.

New Jersey's Candidates for Governor

Drawing some of the biggest crowds during the four-hour train ride on Feb. 16 were two Democratic candidates for governor who were walking the aisle of the 15-car train. Candidate Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and former U.S. ambassador to Germany, called the train "a pulse-check for a lot of the issues and a lot of realities in the state right now." N.J. Sen Raymond Lesniak, who is challenging Murphy in the primary, said "If I'm not here, people will say I'm not really running for governor. You need to be seen."

N.J. Chamber Business Leadership Award

During the dinner, the N.J. Chamber presented its 2017 Business Leadership Award to Anthony Coscia, chairman of Amtrak, who oversees rail service that connects more than 500 destinations in 46 states. Previously, he served as chairman of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, and chairman of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

Sen. Booker for President?

The festivities capped off the following morning with an insightful reporters roundtable breakfast, hosted by NJTV's Michael Aron, where news reporters analyzed happenings during the two-day event, and discussed where New Jersey and the country go from here.

The reporters seemed to agree that Booker is a legitimate prospect for president in 2020, and they noted that his remarks at the Congressional Dinner, which struck a lot of emotional chords, had the feel of a stump speech.

"He holds audiences spellbound and it resonates," said Jonathan Salant, Washington correspondent for the Star-Ledger and NJ Advance Media. David Cruz, NJTV News correspondent, said Booker is "a rock star in the making. If he doesn't run for president, it's a shocker." Nick Acocella, editor and publisher of Politifax, called Booker "a prodigy and a talent" with a following that reaches far beyond New Jersey. "Does that translate into a run for president? I don't know."

The reporters also assessed the state of the race for New Jersey governor in 2017 and agreed that Phil Murphy is the Democratic frontrunner. On the Republican side, they seemed to agree things were not quite as clear between Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, and none were ready to completely dismiss entertainer and radio talk show host Joe Piscopo.

Herb Jackson, a veteran Washington Correspondent for The (Bergen) Record, said the Walk to Washington and Congressional Dinner provides a venue for "something that you don't get a lot of in Washington. You get Republicans listening to Booker, and Democrats listening to Chris Smith. It's not partisan."

A special thank you to JCP&L, Walk to Washington's premier sponsor.

For photos from the event, click here.

 

Everybody is talking about the Walk to Washington

Booker, Menendez to speak at N.J. Chamber 'Walk to Washington' dinner event
(NJBIZ)

NJBIZ Christie to also speak at N.J. Chamber 'Walk to Washington' event
(NJBIZ)

Christie is returning to an annual N.J. political tradition
(The Star-Ledger, NJ Advance Media)

Cardinal Tobin to Join Washington Train Ride
(The Bergen Record)

What Guadagno will miss because of her day job as Christie stand-in | The Auditor
(The Star-Ledger, NJ Advance Media)

Chris Christie Returns to Chamber Trip for One Last Schmooze-With Trump
(Observer)

NJ pols' annual train ride to D.C. no longer a 'rolling cocktail party
(New Jersey 101.5)

Trains, not drains: New Jersey lobbyists on way to swamp DC
(The Associated Press)

NJ chamber's 80th 'Walk to Washington'
(WHYY, Newsworks)

A look at N.J.'s weirdest political tradition
(The Star-Ledger, NJ Advance Media)

Christie warns his successor could reverse N.J.'s progress
(The Star-Ledger, NJ Advance Media)

Christie on Trump, jokes: 'He's actually gonna make me emperor'
(The Star-Ledger, NJ Advance Media)

5 Memorable Moments from the 'Walk to Washington' Schmoozefest
(The Star-Ledger, NJ Advance Media)

Democratic governor candidate boycotts lobbyist-filled Chamber Train trip to D.C.
(The Star-Ledger, NJ Advance Media)

We're not part of Trump's swamp, say riders on N.J. chamber train
(The Star-Ledger, NJ Advance Media)

Christie boasts about Port Authority capital plan, and blasts a familiar foe
(The Star-Ledger, NJ Advance Media)

Cardinal says removal of girls from CYO team was 'unfair'
(The Star-Ledger, NJ Advance Media)

Train filled with lawmakers, lobbyists heads to D.C.
(The Bergen Record)

Stile: A newcomer - a cardinal - mingles with the political elite
(The Bergen Record)

Kelly: Chris Christie is no longer relevant
(The Bergen Record)

Christie's message on 2017 gubernatorial campaign: 'Beware'
(The Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Latest: Christie warns candidates to cool it on promises
(The Washington Post)

Chamber Trip: Christie Warns of Inflated Campaign Rhetoric From Potential Successors
(Observer)

Chamber Trip: Booker Says Flynn Resignation Part of Larger Pattern
(Observer)

Chamber Trip: Menendez Even-Keeled on Trump SCOTUS Pick, Harsh on Diplomatic Tack
(Observer)

NJTV News Report from the train
(NJTV News)

Booker, Christie Highlight Chamber's Congressional Dinner
(NJTV News)

Lesson From Chamber of Commerce Dinner: the 'Swamp' Survives
(The Associated Press)

Who's Up and Who's Down: Week of the Chamber Train
(InsiderNJ)

Tales from the #ChamberTrain
(InsiderNJ)

The Long Ride Home
(InsiderNJ)

The New Jersey of Commerce Chamber Train: A Pictorial Retrospective
(InsiderNJ)

Christie at Twilight: Governor uses Chamber Platform to Warn of Successors Saying 'Yes"
(InsiderNJ)

Murphy on Booker for Prez: 'He's Got the Goods'
(InsiderNJ)

Walk to Washington: Interview with Michael Egenton
(This is Jersey)

NJ lawmakers, business leaders make 80th annual Walk to Washington train trip
(FiOS1 News)

At Walk to Washington dinner, Christie highlights $32 billion Port Authority plan approved Thursday
(NJBIZ)

Remarks from Christie, Menendez, Booker range widely at Walk to Washington dinner, but all come back to economics
(NJBIZ)

Some perspectives from women on the Walk to Washington
(NJBIZ)

Talk on the train: What's the most pressing business in N.J., who will be our next governor and will Cory Booker run for president? Here's what the insiders think
(NJBIZ)

Talk on the train: Will Gov. Christie complete his term, is he still the most powerful player in N.J. and where does he rank among the last five elected governors? Here's what the insiders think
(NJBIZ)

Talk on the train: How is this trip different from a year ago and what's the plan this year? Here's what Phil Murphy, the presumed front-runner to be the next governor, thinks
(NJBIZ)

Grapevine Analysis: Christie's fight against opioids gets lukewarm support on D.C. trip
(NJBIZ)

Newark cardinal joins lobbyists on trip to Washington
(KRMG News 102.3)