Chamber Train Dos and Don’ts

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  

DO: 

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 real 

Be grateful that this train is only once a year – for one day  

Do NOT: 

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.

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    It really is no fun anymore!

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