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.

3 Replies to “The High Cost to Advance”

  1. Joshua,

    I completely agree with you. In 1988 I went to my first Republican Advance. The registration fee was $20.00 and I was able to vote for Pat Robertson in a straw poll. It was at the Ingleside Resort.

    The next Republican Advance that I attended was at the Hotel Roanoke. I stayed with a girl-friend there to cut down on the expense. The registration fee was about $60 then and I thought that was too much but I finally broke down and paid it because the luncheon was included. I think that was around 2004 or 2005.

    Then I went to another Republican Advance in 2008. It was in Hot Springs at the deluxe resort. I just planned to attend the hospitality suites and hoped to find a place to crash or drive home late at night. A candidate let me stay in their hospitality suite after the parties. He paid for my registration fee. I had such a wonderful time as Rockingham County got the best unit award and I had the honor of going up to receive it. We also got another award for all the work we did for McCain and I went up to get that one too. I got to see a lot of my Republican buddies from all over the state as I always go to the Republican Conventions. We don’t have conventions every year anymore so I miss that.

    This year I am going to the advance with my girl-friend, Kaylene. We were able to get the room for $85 so we can split that fee. We are going to the hospitality suites Friday night. Then we are just going to hang out in the lobby on Sat.. We can’t afford that registration fee. It is way too high. They make money off the banquets so I don’t understand why they have to have such a high registration fee. The average grassroots Republican can’t afford it. No wonder they call us the party of the rich. I am not a rich Republican so I have to do it the economy way. The hospitality suites open up again at 4 PM Sat. but I don’t know if we will stay that long. We can’t afford to stay 2 nights and it is a long drive to Northern Virginia.

    I plan to talk to Pat Mullins and try to explain to him that the grassroots people can’t celebrate our victories as the cost is too high. I couldn’t even go to the Fundraiser for Dickie Bell as that was $35. Bill Bolling had a free event for the Inaugural Celebration. Not many people accomodate us poorer folk. I just don’t understand how the fee could go from $20 in 1988 to $165 in 2010. That is a huge increase.

    1. I’m glad you will be speaking to Pat Mullins about the entry fee. I know that they would like more money, but the costs are simply too high. Hopefully next year’s rates will be more reasonable.

      It is true that some people few the Republican Party as the party of the rich, but both you and I know that assumption simply isn’t true. Then again, with fees like the Advance, they seem to be driving poorer folk away from the fellowship that everyone should be able to enjoy.

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