By David Cruz
The 78th Chamber of Commerce Walk to Washington is a moving sardine can of politics, business and government with hundreds of elected officials, lobbyists, consultants and others who find a packed, three-hour train ride a welcome diversion from the everyday work of running the state’s government.
“The whole concept is bizarre. I think anybody who thinks about it would tell you, ‘The concept of a thousand people on a train and we can’t move is strange, bizarre and silly,'” said Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.
Fulop is one of two presumed gubernatorial candidates on the train. He insists he’s just here as the mayor of the second largest city in the state but acknowledges that his name comes up and is OK with not discouraging the talk.
“I can’t say it more sincerely that if my career ended and I was the mayor of Jersey City and we continue to do a good job, I’m perfectly happy. I literally love the job that I have,” he said.
You never know who you’re going to meet on the Walk to DC.
Former ambassador Phil Murphy — the also as yet unnamed gubernatorial candidate — is making his first Walk to Washington. He also says he’s not here as a gubernatorial candidate. Rather, he says he’s here to talk up the efforts of his New Start New Jersey non-profit — and to meet new friends.
“It’s a little of both. So I’ve been around for a while. We picked our home in Monmouth County to raise our four kids and that was in 1998, so I’ve been on the scene for about 15 years. So in some cases it’s reconnecting and that’s been a lot of fun. But I love people and I love meeting new people, so, overwhelmingly on a day like today, I’m really meeting a lot of new faces and I’m loving it,” Murphy said.
It’s a networking event, after all, but these are the decision makers in state government. What about the Transportation Trust Fund, and the budget? Isn’t anybody going to be talking about that stuff?
“Well I can tell you that today from the time I got to the breakfast this morning to right now, those have been the two biggest topics and it’s from everybody. Everyone’s anxious to find out where the budget is gonna go and everybody’s anxious to try to jump start New Jersey’s economy. Jump start it. Get it going. It’s been sluggish,” said Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco.
“I think New Jersey is poised in a really unique space right now. We have different levels of leadership looking at different offices and so policy begins to get constructed in those sets. The key thing is for all of us to get geared up, roll up our sleeves and create an agenda where we’re going to move forward in this year,” said Sen. Teresa Ruiz.
The highlight of the day will be a speech by Gov. Chris Christie. He’s probably not going to announce a presidential run, but people will be watching to see the governor do something he hasn’t done in quite some time — speak to people from New Jersey about New Jersey, even if it is in Washington DC.