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.