Lobby Day in Pictures

Did you miss out on Lobby Day 2012?  Have you ever been to the Virginia Capitol in Richmond, Virginia?  Well, here is a slide show of some people and things you should have seen (plus a hungry squirrel enjoying a cracker at the capitol entrance).  Enjoy!

Please note, the music is not mine but rather a built-in soundtrack from the fine folks at Apple Computer.  Making video slide shows like this one is particularly easy…if you own a Mac.

Lobby Day

On Monday, political activists from across the commonwealth of Virginia gathered in Richmond to participate in the annual Lobby Day.  Shortly before 7 AM that morning, I boarded a bus headed to the state capital to participate in these activities.  My fellow passengers included other members of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party as well as the Valley Family Forum, and even a person or two from the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

After Harrisonburg, we made stops in Staunton and Waynesboro, picking up additional folks along the way.  With our busload of around thirty-five, we crossed over Afton Mountain and made our way to our destination.

Shortly before arriving, we discovered that the pro-life presentation offered by the Family Foundation had reached its capacity, so Lois Paul (one of the tea party leaders), Lisa McCumsey, (the campaign manager for Karen Kwiatkowski), and myself decided to explore the capital on our own.

Our first stop was the general assembly office building.  Although most delegates and senators were unavailable, I did appreciate the opportunity to speak with Delegate Landes (R-25) and my own Delegate, Tony Wilt (R-26) about their upcoming legislative proposals.

Jamie Radtke at Lobby Day

From there, we gathered with supporters of the Virginia Citizens Defense League around the bell tower on the capitol grounds.  At this rally, I found two of the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate.  While Jamie Radtke spoke to the crowd, David McCormick milled around the crowd gathering signatures to be on the ballot.

David McCormick at Lobby Day

After that, we enjoyed lunch at the Tobacco Company restaurant.   In the lounge of that establishment, the newly formed Central Virginia Tea Party welcomed visitors.  Surprisingly, I ran into the Virginia chairman for the Gary Johnson campaign while returning from the restroom.  We chatted briefly about the presidential race and each offered a bit of speculation as to the future of the Ron Paul movement.

From there, we toured the capitol building itself.  Unfortunately, by this point, neither the House nor the Senate was in session and so we could not enter those chambers.

Delegate Bob Marshall with his new bill

Shortly before our return to the bus, Delegate Bob Marshall crossed our path.  He was on the way to the capitol to present a new bill.  He stated that his proposal would exempt Virginians from unconstitutional detentions allowed in the recently signed National Defense Authorization Act.  I’m always glad to discover new ways that our legislators are working to protect us from the excesses of the federal government.

On the ride back, several of us collected signatures for the various Senate and House candidates while a good chunk of the attendees took the opportunity to nap.  About half of my fellow riders accepted a DVD explaining why they should support Dr. Ron Paul in the upcoming March 6th primary.

All in all, it was a great trip.  If you couldn’t make it to Lobby Day 2012, I recommend marking your calendars in advance so that you won’t miss out next time.

MARSHALL OBJECTS TO ‘LOYALTY OATH’ IN G.O.P. PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY

VC Note:  I just received this email from Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13).  Given that I too have previously objected and continue to object to idea of requiring voters to sign a loyalty oath before being allowed to vote, I wanted to share his thoughts with you just in case you are not on his emailing list.

Del. Bob Marshall is urging Virginia’s GOP leaders to ask the State Board of Elections to rescind its ruling that voters, before taking part in the March 6 Republican presidential primary, must pledge in writing that they intend to support the party’s White House nominee in the Nov. 6 general election.

“Ironically, requiring a loyalty oath will bar even former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich from voting in the primary because he already has said unequivocally that he will not vote for Ron Paul for president if he’s the Republican nominee,” Marshall (R., 13th District) noted Thursday (Dec. 29).

“Virginia’s Republican leadership wants to mandate a loyalty oath when Virginia’s Republican officials are in court fighting the Obamacare mandate?  This sends the wrong message.”

Gingrich, a McLean resident, is running for the GOP presidential nomination.  His name, however, will not appear on the primary ballot because he lacked enough petition signatures to qualify.  Only two Republican presidential candidates – Rep. Paul (R., Texas) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney – have been certified for the primary ballot by GOP State Chairman Pat Mullins.

By a 3-0 vote Wednesday at the request of state GOP leaders, the Board of Elections agreed to invoke a state statute permitting political parties to require loyalty oaths in the nominating process.

The Elections Board approved forms on which voters, before being eligible to cast ballots in the primary, must sign and print their names below a line that reads: “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president.”

The board also approved a sign to be posted at all polling places advising that “Section 24.2-545 of the Code of Virginia allows the political party holding a primary to determine requirements for voting in the primary, including the signing of a pledge by the voter of his intention to support the party’s candidate when offering to vote in the primary.”

“I understand Republican leaders not wanting Democrats to make our decision for us,” Marshall said, “but a loyalty oath is not the way to address that circumstance.”

Gingrich’s statement that he will not support Paul was made in a CNN interview Tuesday.  [See http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/27/gingrich-wouldnt-vote-for-ron-paul/]

“Loyalty oaths are detested by many good Republicans who solidly back our party’s principles and who have never voted for a Democrat in their lives,” Marshall said.  “And there are other concerns.

“In November, Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell and Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli, both Republicans, supported an Independent for Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney over the Republican nominee.  Does this make them suspect Republicans?

“How many conservative Democrats voted for Ronald Reagan in ‘Republican’ primaries in 1980?  Would they have voted in a Republican primary that required a loyalty oath when Reagan was probably the only Republican they would vote for?   I doubt it.

“Requiring Virginia election workers to enforce a Republican loyalty oath in a primary paid for by the general taxpayer is a markedly questionable use of tax money.

“Republicans I know want to defeat President Obama and his liberal Democrat supporters in Congress.  I believe the great majority will vote for the Republican nominee over Obama.  I question whether beating Barack Obama, which I am working hard to do, is furthered by requiring a loyalty oath in this presidential primary.”

Reflections on the Straw Poll

As my most recent article on examiner.com states, last week I conducted a straw poll at the meeting of the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Shenandoah Valley Tea Party.  Here are the results:

2012 Republican Presidential Primary

Newt Gingrich – 30%

Michelle Bachmann – 27%

Rick Santorum – 20%

Ron Paul – 7%

Rick Perry – 7%

Jon Huntsman – 7%

Mitt Romney – 0%

Would not vote in the GOP Primary – 3%

2012 Republican Senate Primary

E.W. Jackson – 40%

George Allen – 37%

Jamie Radtke – 13%

Bob Marshall (written in, not listed on the ballot) – 7%

Tim Donner – 0%

David McCormick – 0%

Would not vote in the GOP Primary – 3%

2012 Democratic Senate Primary

No respondents cast a vote in this primary

2012 Republican 6th District House of Representatives Primary

Karen Kwiatkowski – 47%

Bob Goodlatte – 43%

Other (no name filled in) – 3%

Office left blank – 3%

Would not vote in the GOP Primary – 3%

I’m not going to rehash the finer bits about the poll.  If you’d like that information, I encourage you to read my previous article.  Instead of reporting, which is what they primarily request at examiner.com, you’ll find my commentary on each of the three races.

1. President

To be quite honest, I was very surprised by this result.  Why would Tea Partiers embrace Gingrich, a man who is arguably the least conservative in the Republican field?  I’d guess that it has more to do with his surging popularity and his favorable news coverage on places like Fox News rather than areas of policy agreement.  At least I hope that idea is correct.  Neither Bachmann nor Santorum’s strong showing really came as a shock.  After all, whether you agree or disagree with the label, they are billed as “tea party candidates”.  But Paul with only 7%?  If you are wondering, that meant he only got two votes, myself and one other person.  Although Paul may not win a majority of the tea party vote (even though I think he should), he should certainly capture a higher percentage.

So has the Ron Paul campaign reached out to the tea party movement across the country?  I would assume it would be fertile ground.  After all, the tea party supposedly grew out of the dissatisfaction regarding the big government policies of both Democrat Barack Obama and his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, in a similar manner of the groundswell for Dr. Paul.  In order to spread awareness of Ron Paul and sway my local tea party toward his campaign, I have called his national headquarters many times and, once that failed, even sent them a letter asking for campaign materials.  Each time I contact them I am told that I would be getting something in the mail.  More than a month later, I still have nothing, which is more than a little distressing.  If you will recall, the tea parties in Kentucky helped get Rand Paul elected Senator.  Don’t you think they could be helpful in electing his father to be our next president?

2. U.S. Senate

The result for the Senate race also held a lot of surprises.  As you see, E.W. Jackson finished first.  Although he is likely the strongest, most articulate, and passionate speaker of any of the other Republican or Democratic candidates, I have seen nothing to lead me to believe that he has a particularly strong and organized campaign.

Second, George Allen captured second.  Again, this result might leave your jaw open wondering if the tea party has a heavy minority of establishment Republicans.  Not surprisingly, this poll shows a very strong correlation between support for Newt Gingrich and support for George Allen.  Of Gingrich’s ten votes, seven of them also supported George Allen.

Third, Jamie Radtke, Tim Donner, and David McCormick ought to be concerned by these results.  Although the Senate race is still many months away, I would assume that each would require tea party support to be successful.  With Radtke finishing a distant third and Donner and McCormick with no votes whatsoever, I would recommend that each needs to visit more tea party organizations in order to sway, not only the tea party leaders, but also the regular tea party members.

Fourth, Bob Marshall got two votes.  This fact may seem trivial given that is it such a low number, but given that his name wasn’t even on the ballot; you do wonder how he would fare.  After all, while leafing through the results, one tea partier mentioned to me that she would have voted for Marshall if his name were listed as a choice.  Will Marshall enter?  The answer to that question is still unknown.

3. House of Representatives

Next, we had the race for the Republican nominee for House of Representatives.  Karen Kwiatkowski, the challenger to ten-term incumbent Bob Goodlatte, won by a single vote.  Believe or not, this result was not surprising.  Although neither Goodlatte nor Kwiatkowski have been a featured speaker at the tea party, Kwiatkowski has taken the effort to show up to a handful of meetings.  On other hand, the tea party rallied outside of his office over his support for raising the debt ceiling, and seems to be suffering additional blowback for his sponsorship of the Stop Online Piracy Act. Assuming these trends continue, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kwiatkowski captures at least 2/3rds of the tea party vote up and down the Shenandoah Valley by the time the primaries roll around.

Again, there appears to be a pretty strong correlation between Goodlatte supporters and two other so-called “establishment” candidates, Newt Gingrich and George Allen.  Of Goodlatte’s thirteen votes, 77% also supported Gingrich, Allen, or both.  By comparison, of Kwiatowski’s fourteen votes, 79% supported neither Gingrich nor Allen.

Lastly, as a novel aside, one respondent gave what I dub as the “2012, Year of the Woman” response by voting for Bachmann, Radtke, and Kwiatkowski.  Regardless of whether you support or oppose these candidates, I don’t believe that the sex of a candidate should play a role in whether or not he or she should receive your vote.  After all, look at Margaret Thatcher in the U.K.  I would gladly replace a vast majority of our politicians with either a man or woman who shared Thatcher’s principles and convictions.

Getting back to my article on examiner.com, I find it rather amusing that the folks who have dismissed the survey and article are fellow Ron Paul supporters.  Here’s what I’ve got to say on the matter.  Look, these are the results.  I would have liked to see Ron Paul win the poll, just like you would have.  However, just because I didn’t end up with my desired result doesn’t mean I should suppress the story.  After all, I don’t work for the mainstream media.  And yes, thirty people may not be a very large number, but I still believe it fairly accurately depicts the attitudes of the local tea party.  If you aren’t happy with these numbers then that point should encourage you to get out there and press even harder for our candidate.  After all, I would expect that both members of the local Republicans as well as tea partiers would show up in large numbers to the March 6th primary.  With that thought in mind, who do you think is more likely to vote for Ron Paul?  Rank and file Republicans or tea party members?  That’s what I thought.  Now go and spread the word!

Marshall 2012?

Currently, five candidates are vying for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat currently held by Jim Webb.  But could a sixth soon join the fray?

As far back as two years ago, I began wondering if Delegate Bob Marshall would seek Virginia’s Senate seat again.  After all, in 2008 he came within a handful of votes of upsetting the establishment favorite, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, at the Republican convention.  Along with Corey Stewart, rumors swirled that Marshall would run after he won re-election.

Throughout the past forty-seven or so months, the topic keeps popping up.  On multiple occasions, including The Leadership Institute’s 4th of July Soirée and the Agenda 21 presentation in Verona, I’ve spoken with several folks with very close connections to Delegate Marshall who indicated that he would enter the contest.

Now that his House of Delegates election is over, he can now focus on this race…assuming he chooses to do so.

But what are his chances of success?  Has the race solidified sufficiently to severely hinder any new entrant?  Have the coalition of activists and politicos that rallied behind him back in 2008 already selected a candidate in this race?  Well, it is true that Marshall’s former campaign manager has joined the Allen campaign, many social conservatives are supporting E.W. Jackson, and Jamie Radtke is working her tea party contacts.  Earlier, I argued that waiting until after Election Day 2011 would be too late for any candidate.  But perhaps I was mistaken.  After all, the field still seems pretty divided.

In addition, Delegate Marshall enjoys the highest name recognition of the non-Allen candidates.  For example, the marriage amendment to the Virginia Constitution bears his name as the Marshall/Newman Amendment.  If can gather together his loyal band of activists from the 2008 convention, maybe he can position himself as the best conservative alternative to Allen as he did with Gilmore three years ago.  Then again, perhaps Radtke, Donner, Jackson, or McCormick is already on his or her way to capturing that title.

So will Bob Marshall announce?  I cannot say for certain, but I expect we will have our answer very soon.

The Fuss Over Waters

Yesterday’s article on Bearing Drift concerning Steve Waters has drawn considerable attention from folks across the Republican spectrum.  For those unfamiliar with the story, let me give you a bit of background.  In the past, Mr. Waters has associated with candidates and politicians that mainstream Republicans routinely dismiss and marginalize.  For example, in 2008, Steve Waters ran Delegate Bob Marshall’s campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, nearly upsetting establishment favourite and former Governor Jim Gilmore.  Well, Bearing Drift informs us that the George Allen for Senate campaign has hired Waters.

This development is drawing considerable attention for a number of reasons.  Chief among them revolves around the extremely likely possibility that Delegate Marshall will be running against George Allen.  If Marshall does throw his hat into the ring, Waters will not be in his corner.  Now I know why the Allen campaign would hire Waters; having been involved with typically socially conservative activists, they hope to draw upon his knowledge and efforts to woo voters who I call the hard right.  After all, in this primary, Allen’s major weakness is supposedly not being conservative enough.  Steve Waters, they hope, will help counter this perception.

Now when you ask why Waters would join Allen, the answer becomes murky.  Perhaps Waters believes that Allen is a true conservative and is the best candidate.  Maybe he has discovered that contrary to popular opinion Bob Marshall is not going to run or he has had a falling out with the Delegate and is going with his new first choice.  Another likely possibility is that Waters thinks Allen will ultimately win and that he would like to be a part of the victory and the spoils it affords.  After all, a spot on a Senate staff is a highly sought position.

Reaction from this news is, not surprisingly, mixed.  Allen supporters welcome the news and are touting Waters as a worthy ally in the fight ahead.  Marshall people and those who oppose Allen are reacting with disbelief and anger, some comparing Waters to Benedict Arnold for selling out the “true” conservative movement.  An opinion of Waters seems to be closely tied to one’s opinion of Allen.

I’m not sure what to make of the whole situation really.  I won’t say that I know Steve Waters too well.  I did speak to him briefly during the 2008 Marshall campaign but cannot speak either positively or negatively of his efforts.  I have heard some people give him praise for his hard work, after all Marshall nearly upset Gilmore.  However, I’ve run across others who claim that Marshall almost won in spite of Waters supposed hindrance.  Like 1,440 others, I claim Mr. Waters as a Facebook friend.  Speaking of that matter, I do find it very bizarre that he must have gone through my friends list and sent friend requests to just about all of them, including ones that I know that he has never met and have little or nothing to do with Virginia politics.

Getting back to an earlier point, the most interesting question of this whole affair is Waters’ motivation.  Does he believe that George Allen is the best candidate?  Is it a matter of money or power?  Is he somehow seeking revenge against Marshall and his cadre of loyal supporters?  Unfortunately, I expect this question to go unanswered.

At the end of the day, I expect Steve Waters will draw some amount of conservatives toward Allen, but others will be unswayed.  If the primary were held today, with or without Waters, the smart money is on Allen to win.  Will Waters help Allen retain this edge through next year?  Again, not knowing enough about Waters, I can’t answer that question.  I’m just wondering how long it will be until the fuss dies down.

Update:  The Fifth District Watchdog makes an interesting point.  Back in October of 2010, I got an invite to join the Facebook group “Republicans against a George Allen comeback“.  Would you care to wager a guess who sent me the invite?  This story is getting more odd by the minute.  Given that revelation, Steve Waters joining the Allen team makes about as much sense as Ben Marchi joining Jamie Radtke’s crew.  Although it is remotely possible that Waters has had a complete change of heart, these developments seem to smack of hypocrisy.  Regardless of your feelings regarding Allen, it seems likely that Steve Waters has destroyed his political creditability with all parties.

Agenda 21 in Verona

Last night several hundred people gathered at the Augusta County Government Center to hear about the issue of property rights and the UN’s Agenda 21.

A small portion of the crowd

Hosting the event were the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party, the Rockbridge Tea Party, and a surprising addition, the Augusta County Constitution Party.  Until last night, I was completely unaware that the Constitution Party was organized on the county level here in Virginia.  Apparently they currently have a couple of chapters around the state right now.

Augusta County Constitution Party Booth

In addition, there were a good number of General Assembly legislators in the audience.  Representing the Virginia House of Delegates, I saw Dickie Bell (20), Ben Cline (24), Steve Landes (25), Tony Wilt (26), and, of course, Bob Marshall (13).  Emmett Hanger (24) was the only Senator I observed.

All in all, the program lasted a bit over two hours.  Delegate Marshall primarily spoke about local, state, and national efforts to both help or hinder property rights while Donna Holt of Virginia Campaign for Liberty focused on the UN and its plans for global control.  Although Marshall and Holt took the bulk of the program, there were also two other speakers, Charles Kraut from Lexington and someone else whose name I didn’t catch.

Donna Holt and Delegate Bob Marshall

Overall the audience seems fairly receptive to the message.  Apparently this meeting is just one of several coordinated across the state.  The most important question is, what sort of impact will this event have on regional and state politics?  Only time will tell.

Execute Agenda 21

Have you ever heard of Agenda 21?  As of about a month ago, I had not.  Apparently, it is a plan instituted by the United Nations to regulate land usage throughout the globe.  According to the brief description on the UN website, “Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.”

Now that description doesn’t really tell you much does it?  But it does sound like it could be part of some devious plot hatched by the Emperor in the Star Wars universe, doesn’t it?  I can hear it now.  “Regional Governors will now have direct control over all land in their territories.  Execute Agenda 21!”

Seriously though, the thought of any supranational unelected body dictating order from their sovereign headquarters is a creepy thought.  After all, isn’t the supposed goal of the American experiment to allow states, localities, and individuals to control most of their own destiny, not be ruled by some bureaucrats hundreds of miles away?

To further dialogue on this issue, the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party is holding an information session this coming Thursday starting at 7 PM at the Augusta County Government Center (18 Government Center Lane, Verona, VA).  Both Delegate Bob Marshall and Donna Holt of the Virginia Campaign for Liberty will be talking on the subject.  I would advise arriving early as I expect the event to be well attended; there should be a far greater crowd than just the two gentlemen you might expect.  (Does that line merit a groan?)

I’m hoping that this issue is merely some sort of conspiracy theory blown out of proportion.  Then again, if there is some sort of foul plot about that strips us of our rights, as some people suggest, then the public must be alerted of this danger.  I plan on attending this event to learn more and I hope you will be able to make it as well.

Who Is David McCormick?

Who is David McCormick?  Earlier today, I couldn’t have told you the first thing about him.  Just a few moments ago, I learned he is a dark horse candidate running for the Republican nomination for Virginia’s 2012 Senate seat.  But who is David McCormick?  According to his website, he is an attorney from Hampton Roads.  Prior to his announcement, he served in the leadership of the Virginia Beach Republican Party.

Why is Mr. McCormick running for the Senate?  According to his website, he supports a whole host of issues, some of which are quite good, others that I find troubling.  Let’s highlight some of the more interesting and controversial thoughts.

When it comes to Washington reform, McCormick sounds pretty reasonable:

– Audit the fed?  Sign me up.

-Increase bill transparency?  Absolutely.

– Only allow germane amendments to bills?  Sounds good to me.

– Term limits?  Here I have mixed feelings.  Although I am concerned by career politicians who are more or less out of touch with the societies they supposedly represent, term limits could remove very good legislators as well.  The better solution is to remove some of the barriers to political competition and incumbancy protection such as McCain-Feingold.

– Constitutional Amendment to require a balanced budget?  Unless Congress can quickly learn to live within its means, the American people will be overwhelmed with debt.

– Cut spending and salaries of bureaucrats and politicians?  As I’ve said recently, people should be motivated to go into politics in order to serve our nation rather than to grow rich off of the taxpayers.

– Hostile nations cannot buy U.S. debt?  Although that may sound good, what would such a position do to our current financial servitude to China?

In national defense he has a few good ideas like:

– “Reduce  one-third  of our troops deployed outside of the U.S.”

– “Use Military to assist in the guarding and security of all of U.S. Borders”

– “End our deployment in Iraq.”

However, under children’s issues I see some problems:

– “All beer, wine, and other alcoholic  beverage commercials shall not be shown during regular family television viewing hours.”  Sure, we don’t want to encourage underage consumption of alcohol, but this idea exceeds the proper jursidiction of the federal government.  Plus, wouldn’t such a plan violate the 1st amendment?

– “No one under 21 years of age shall have to pay any social security or medicare.”  I don’t really understand this position at all.  Social security and medicare are already going bankrupt as it is, so this action will only hasten their demise.  Sure, I would like to see the federal government removed from these areas too, but we cannot cheat those citizens who paid into the system their whole lives and now rely on this income.

– “Congress to regulate the FCC and demand that standards of common decency be enforced for all prime time television programming.”  As a social conservative, I can understand where he is coming from, but supporting censoring out of D.C. smacks of totalitarianism.

– One bright spot is repealing No Child Left Behind.  As Senator Obenshain and Delegate Bell recently stated, if we want to get the federal government out of children’s education, it starts with eliminating this Bush era error.

I could delve further into his positions, but I believe I’ve covered the most interesting ones listed on his website.  You’re welcome to read and explore to your heart’s content.

Maybe you like what you’ve read about Mr. McCormick, maybe you don’t, but one thing is certain; he has a very tough road ahead in order to secure the Republican nomination.  The biggest problem I see is name recognition.  Outside of Virginia Beach has anyone heard of him?  Doubtful.  Although I still haven’t met Jamie Radtke or Corey Stewart, they are spreading their names and positions.  As a side note, Mr. Stewart will be visiting our local tea party in just a couple days.  Delegate Bob Marshall is well-known in political circles; he is beloved by some activists and passionately despised by others.  And then there is the front running juggernaught, George Allen.  As he was both our Governor and our Senator, even normally nonpolitical folks know his name.  Right now David McCormick has far and away the lowest name I.D. of any person who is currently running or those supposedly considering running.  Who knows?  Although it is very unlikely, maybe Radtke, Allen, and who ever else ends up running will damage each other so badly in the process that an unknown candidate like McCormick ends up winning.

The Virginia Senate race just got a little more interesting.  After all, dark horse candidates can win, but they are far more the exception than the rule.

The High Cost to Advance

On this coming Friday and Saturday, Republicans across the state will be gathering in McLean, Virginia, to celebrate the 27th Donald Huffman Advance.  For those who don’t know, Donald Huffman is a former chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.  This year should an interesting event as many high name conservatives have reserved hospitality suites for Friday night.  For example, the three potential 2012 Senate candidates, former Governor George Allen, Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas, and Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart all will be currying support.  To name a few more, my State Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg and Representative Eric Cantor of Richmond will each have a suite too.  Then on Saturday, after breakfast, attendees will have the opportunity to attend numerous workshops followed by lunch and then additional workshops.  That evening, activists can also enjoy a dinner and a VIP reception for an additional cost.  Sounds like an interesting experience, no?  So what do you expect an event like this one to cost?  $25?  $50?  $100?  Regrettably, these two days cost a staggering $165 per person!

Until last year, I never attended the annual Advance.  Although I have been to two conventions, I couldn’t justify the price tag.  After all, besides the cost of the Advance itself, you also have to take into account the travel costs as well as the hotel.  If you caught the early bird special for lodging this year, that means tacking on another $85.  In late 2009, I decided to make the trek down to Williamsburg to see what the fuss was all about.  The Friday night hospitality suites were sort of like a family reunion as I was able to speak to many politicians and activists that I had met over the years.  Unfortunately, by the late evening, I grew increasingly unwell.  By the morning, I felt sick and it was difficult to concentrate so by the time I got over to the Advance I was feeling pretty miserable.  Therefore, due to my worsening condition and desire to not contaminate my fellow activists, I planned to leave.  While pondering my options, I asked if I was able get some sort of refund if I left.  The folks at the RPV said that I could and so I exited the convention hall to return to Harrisonburg.  Later however, I was told that my promise of a full refund was reduced to just a partial refund.  A few weeks after that, the idea of even a minor refund was completely rejected.  Obviously, this episode has soured my impression of the Advance.

I would expect that many Republicans will gather in Tysons Corner this weekend to celebrate this year’s Advance.  However, you will not find me there.  Even if I could afford to go, I believe the charge is far too high for what you get and, especially in these tough economic times, the average Republican activist will be repulsed by the fees associated.  I have no problem with a fundraising dinner and a VIP reception in order to raise cash from the high rollers among us, but $250 (including hotel) to attend a handful of workshops?  If you are looking to learn more about politics, given their lower outlay, I think the Leadership Institute provides far more bang for your buck.  Shouldn’t the Advance be more about celebrating our victories and working for the future rather than squeezing the faithful for funds?  Sure, I’d love to join you at the RPV’s Advance, but the costs are simply too high.