Overheard on the Chamber Train to DC

New Jersey’s political and business elite come together today in Washington DC for the 81st annual NJ Chamber of Commerce “Walk to Washington”+ Congressional Dinner extravaganza.  It is the junket to end all junkets.

“This is the kind of super-networking that helps businesses grow,” said Tom Bracken, CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce describing the perennial junket.

Networking. Technically, that’s what this trip is about. That, plus much politics and even more politicking. And booze. Lots and lots of booze. Which should yield loads of catnip for NJ political junkies. Most attendees arrive via the charted Amtrak train that departs Newark Penn Station, with stops in Trenton, Philly, & Wilmington en route to DC’s Union Station.

I’m about to hop on in Philly.

And if I’m lucky, there’ll be many eminently quotable soundbites to share with y’all. Some quips are from yours truly. Because of course they are.

“Have you noticed Union County fell apart since Lesniak retired?” — lots of people

“My medical cannabis is legal in NJ. Once we cross the border to PA, it’s totally illegal. Expect for Philly where, like Delaware, it’s been decriminalized. Totally illegal once we cross into Maryland. Then of course everyone’s cannabis is legal in DC. Just not on Federal property. In a nutshell, the right medicate legally ends at the border of the very next state. Our rights fade in and out like cell phone reception depending on location.”   –– Jay Lassiter, to anyone who’d listen.

“My staff and I are researching ways to accommodate out-of-state  medical marijuana patients. We’re talking about sick people. They  need medical marijuana. Why can’t they buy it in New Jersey?”— Annette Quijano, chair Assembly Judiciary Committee.

“There used to be a lot more drinking on board. I also feel like lots of people do DC an skip the train. But it’s an opportunity to casually talk with legislators when they are a captive audience. And they are relaxed.  The point is to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise.”    — Brigid Harrison, Political scientist Montclair University, who has made this trip “a half dozen” times. They were

“I don’t need to spend $2,000,000 To convince voters where I live. I know where I pay my property taxes. “  — 7th congressional district candidate Dave Pringle, Throwing shade at carpet- bagging rival Tom Malinowski

“This year is mellow, more comfortable, fewer people. That’s reflective of the last governor who contributed to the demise of this trip by trashing it. All the time. He boycotted and people felt uncomfortable coming.” — super lobbyist Bill Pascrell 3rd, making his 31st trip.

“We represent south/central Jersey and the shore. Most people here are from north Jersey. We’re here to give some geographical diversity.”  — Jonathan Petro, Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce.

“Tonight I’ll invite  The 37-year-long no show congressman. I might even ask him back to the district for a Townhall. He hasn’t done one in 25 years.”  4th district congressional candidate Jim Keady on Rep. Chris Smith,  a  Jersey congressman who doesn’t actually live in New Jersey. He lives in Virginia.

“It’s a marathon, pace yourself. It’s  about pacing. That’s more important that ever in the age of social media.”  — former Bergen freeholder Dennis McNerney. Best advice I’ve heard all trip.

Jay Lassiter is a long time New Jersey political gadfly making his second Chamber Train trip.


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