Charles Stile
Cardinal Joseph Tobin

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, the newly installed archbishop of Newark, said he will join the New Jersey of Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Walk to Washington” pilgrimage later this month.

The 80th annual chartered Amtrak train ride on Feb. 16 is a rolling schmooze fest packed with lobbyists, legislators and political operatives.

The event started in 1937 as a way for New Jersey’s business leaders to meet with the state’s congressional delegation. It earned the reputation as a rowdy, boozy affair, a symbol of the too-close-for-comfort relationship between lawmakers and business interests. In other words, it was the last place you might find a man of the cloth.

But in recent years, the trip has become more of a tame cocktail party and a must-do event for gubernatorial candidates and other office-seekers.

Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the train ride will give the new cardinal an opportunity to have an “initial face to face” with the political class and talk about public policy priorities of the Catholic church, such as education, poverty, housing and adequate funding for social services.

Goodness said Tobin is not the first archbishop to take the ride. Former archbishops Theodore C. McCarrick and John J. Myers, Tobin’s predecessor, took the trip in the past, he said.

“But this is the first cardinal,’’ noted Tom Bracken, the chamber president.

Tobin is not expected to wear his ceremonial robes or regalia, but dress in a business suit, Goodness said.

Because of the packed election season this year, with the governor’s office and all 120 seats in the Legislature up for grabs, the train ride is expected to be crowded with candidates and their entourages. Four candidates for governor, Democrat Phillip D. Murphy, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Sayreville, state Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, R-Somerset, are scheduled to take the ride, which begins in Newark.

Gov. Chris Christie is not expected to ride the train but plans to address the gathering at the chamber dinner that night at the Marriott Wardiman Park Hotel.


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