The Annual Chamber Trip is upon us and it is worth the ride. However, it should be noted that there are many things to DO and equally as many NOT to do.
As a former staffer, local elected official, Assemblyman, and Senator who has traveled a few times on the train, it has always been understood that this event is sometimes viewed as a vanity trip where the political elite establish their respective order in the political food chain, the amount of attention and scrutiny is commensurate with the place you currently (keyword) occupy on that organizational chart.
For those unfamiliar with the set up on the train, the Governor and legislative leaders are camped out in their own cars and the smart players, politicos and lobbyist alike, make the move to visit these specially designated chambers to pay their respect. Some politicians and so-called power players think that they are too big or high on the chart and they should be visited in their cubby hole on the train. Bad move and it is politically limiting and intellectually short sighted.
Before we get started on the list, I will never forget the time a popular and well respected two term Assembly member attended and actively participated on this annual jaunt and was showered with affection like many of the other respected and high profile elected officials, until he lost his election in 1995 and was perhaps viewed by some the following year a little differently. The train ride following the loss, this former Assemblyman (very intelligent and hardworking) was relegated to passing out trinkets for a client to the attendees as they boarded the train – the bloom was off this rose. A little lesson in treating everyone with respect and dignity as you never know if you might one day be on the way down.
Side note: After this humbling ride down the ladder, a few short years later, this Assemblyman was appointed the head of a major agency and I suspect his seat on the next train ride had a better view.
Back to the list
Go on the train and experience the carnival atmosphere
Walk the entirety of the train and introduce yourself to everyone (pro move is to get out at every stop and leap frog a few cars from the platform)
Bring a spouse or significant other once so you can relate future stories
Stay sober—drinking and politicking are a dangerous combo and you can develop a reputation quickly
Pay for all your own food and drinks
Be respectful to everyone – staff are the ones that make or break reputations
Keep eye contact after a firm handshake
Meaningful engagement is important
Take notes of things that you need to follow up on or people who you want to meet
The next morning, take the early train home so you don’t kill two full days
Make a date night with your spouse for the return day—it helps
Upon your return, send notes or emails to folks that you met
Take note of the rise and fall of individuals who didn’t attend this year
Listen and take it all in
Be grateful that this train is only once a year – for one day
Sleep with staff or a lobbyist (unfortunately it needs to be said)
Don’t get wrecked
Don’t allow others to pay for meals or incidentals (includes lap dances — again it unfortunately needs to be said)
Don’t shake one hand and hurriedly look past that person for the next hand
Don’t make it a lost weekend
Don’t forget humility and humbleness
Don’t be a know it all
Don’t make every conversation about you or your stupid bill or potential political power move
Don’t forget that there are no secrets on the train, the hotel or in Washington D.C
Don’t forget that iPhones keep everything – forever
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chairman Kevin O’Toole is the former Senator from LD40.