New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will be leading a New Jersey invasion of Washington Thursday night, following the state's annual train party for politicians, businesspeople and lobbyists.
The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce will sponsor its "Walk to Washington," an annual chartered train ride from Newark to Washington during which participants famously walk through the train and mingle for the duration of the trip. After the group arrives in D.C., Christie will give the keynote speech at a dinner sponsored by the chamber, designed to salute the Garden State's federal delegation. The event is expected to attract 800 people, including the both of the state's U.S. senators, five members of the House of Representatives, 35 state lawmakers, five of Christie's cabinet members and scores of members of the state's business, government affairs and non-profit communities.
"We tell people that they can make more contacts in one day than they can in a month," chamber spokesman Scott Goldstein said about the event.
New Jersey is the only state to host such a tradition.
Christie is expected to speak about business and economic issues during his address. He may also discuss the presidential race, in which he has been serving as a top national surrogate for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Following Christie's speech, more networking will occur during a "dessert extravaganza." This is the second year the dessert portion of the event has occurred, which Goldstein said will feature a "Jersey style" dessert display for the guests to gather around. According to the chamber's website, hotel suite parties will occur following dessert.
The event began in 1937, when several chamber board members traveled by train to Washington to have dinner with the state's congressional delegation, Goldstein said. Since then, it has become a New Jersey political tradition. The event has faced criticism in past years, with Christie skipping the event in 2010 and prohibiting his cabinet members from attending as well. Christie didn't ride the train last year, but did speak at the dinner.
Christie has had a tumultuous relationship with the chamber, dismissing the train ride as "business as usual" during his 2009 campaign. Christie's predecessor, Democrat Jon Corzine, reportedly considered former chamber president Joan Verplanck as his 2009 running mate for lieutenant governor.
Goldstein said he expects this year's event to be a success.
"We allow for one-on-one networking with legislators and members of Congress," he said. "This gives small business owners a chance to talk with them. It gives the legislators a chance to understand our members and ideas."