Maryland delegates to the Democratic National Convention scrounged frequent flier miles, scoured savings accounts and secured roommates to offset the $1,500-plus cost per person to go to the convention in Los Angeles this week.
But they weren’t complaining.
“I think everyone understands it’s not only a commitment of time, but it’s also a substantial financial commitment,” said Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Rogers, of the event.
He said delegates knew the cost would be high before they agreed to represent the party in Los Angeles: While Republican National Convention took place in nearby Philadelphia, Democratic delegates had to foot a big bill to fly across country.
The Maryland Democratic Party did not hold any fund raisers, Rogers said, because delegates did not want to be beholden to particular groups that might have contributed. They passed on fund raisers even though the delegates cover a broad range of economic backgrounds.
“This is not the white, male millionaires club,” Rogers said, referring to members of the Republican Party.
In addition to travel costs, Maryland delegation members are spending about $200 a night (with tax) to stay at the Marriott in Marina Del Rey. The hotel, while expensive, is still about 45 minutes from the convention site in Los Angeles.
To afford the trip, Democrats saved their money and thought up creative ways to cut costs. Rogers is one of several Democrats from Maryland who are using frequent flier miles to afford the airfare to Los Angeles.
George Leventhal, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, is also using frequent flier miles to cover the cost of his airfare — but restrictions that came with those miles mean he will have to fly the red-eye back to Washington, D.C., very late Thursday. That means Leventhal will have to sprint to the airport right after Vice President Al Gore accepts the party’s nomination.
Leventhal, of Takoma Park, is splitting the hotel cost by rooming with state Delegate Tod David Sher, D-Montgomery. Leventhal said he is thinking of the trip as a “political vacation” that he can spend with friends who share his same interests.
State Sen. Ida G. Ruben, D-Montgomery, said she could use some of her campaign funds to pay for the trip, but has not yet decided whether she will do so. Ruben is using frequent flier miles to cover her airfare and figures her food and hotel costs will make about a $1,500 in her savings account.
“This is in lieu of another vacation,” she said. “I think it’s important. It’s history.”