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With one day left in the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, some members of the Illinois delegation in Cleveland are already sure this week has been one of the best of their lives.
They say the RNC has been energizing and inspiring, but also very expensive. Many of them have tried to find ways to cut costs, and some of those tactics are more intimate than others.
Jim Devors, a Trump delegate, recently underwent gastric bypass surgery, which has allowed him to be much more mobile than he’s been for years. But in addition to the $1500 for a week in a Cleveland hotel room, $600 dollar flat fee for food and transportation to and from the convention, Devors also needed to go shopping.
“I realized that nothing in my closet fit, so I had to get some clothes, so I wasn’t going to go out and buy a new wardrobe because I’m still losing weight about 4 pounds a week,” Devors said.
Like a lot of Trump delegates, Devors is new to politics and didn’t quite know what to expect. All he knew was the suggested attire was business casual. To keep costs low, he hit the thrift stores, consignment shops and only swung through big box stores when he came up short.
He proudly walked this reporter through each new item while hanging by the buffet line after breakfast at the hotel.
“You’re seeing one of my fine jackets that I bought. This one cost $12. And a fashionable tie that I believe was $3, and the pants, unfortunately, I had to go to J.C. Penney, but they were on sale.” he said.
Devors said he’s been on disability for years and isn’t working, so he’s putting all his Cleveland expenses on credit cards.
But for other delegates, the hotel room costs were just impossible to pay for alone, so before the convention, 80-year-old Trump delegate Stella Kozanecki thought maybe she’d put some feelers out about a roommate.
She knew exactly where to post her request: the Illinois delegates “Face page” as Stella calls it.
Maria Hough, another Trump delegate, noticed nobody was responding to the social media post.
“I really needed to share a room because I couldn’t afford $1500. So I was like, I’ll stay with ya, Stella! And she’s great,” Hough said.
Hough has had much experience with this, due to her side job selling a line of home fragrances called Pink Zebra, so she figured why not bunk up in Cleveland? She then got to emailing with an alternate Trump delegate from her congressional district named Lanna Logan. and then she figured, well, why doesn’t she bunk up with us, too?
But when they arrived in Cleveland, they noticed immediately that their room wasn’t exactly built for three people. There are two beds with matching nightstands are crammed into the main part of the space. They decided Stella would sleep alone by the window, since this whole thing was her idea.
As for Maria and Lanna, they’re squished together into one full size bed, even though they just met in person this week. Lanna said she’s had to use earplugs and take a sleeping aid to sleep.
“The first night was terribly hard because I slept with a carp. was like sleeping with a carp. This girl went flop flop, flop flop flop! It wasn’t just rolling over, she was flopping.”
Lanna says she’s not used to sleeping in a small bed with someone else, so she builds a wall of pillows between the two of them -- something Maria finds hilarious.
“You’re complaining about the itty bitty bed, but you put that pillow between us and take up all that room. Because I mean the bed is only about the size of three pillows,” Hough said.
They have other routines now, too. Lanna showers late at night after coming home from post-convention parties, and Maria and Stella take turns while Lanna’s sleeping in. They lie in bed every night, flipping back and forth between Fox news and CNN so they can compare coverage. They talk about everything.
“No one is having as much fun as we are,” Lanna said. “We’re really alike. Our values are all alike. We want the best for America.”
They started as three strangers, trying to save a couple bucks. Now they feel like they’ve invested in a life long friendship
“See. Trump’s already uniting everybody,” Maria says.
“Yes, exactly. You are exactly right, he is a uniter,” Lanna says back. “He will unite us all.”
For Jim Devors, who put much of this trip on his credit card, he says Cleveland has been a life changing experience.
“I’m gonna be going back to work this year, and you know, even if I only make minimum payments for a while, my goal is to make at least double minimum payments until I get back to work, but I’ll make the payments, I’ll get caught up,” Devors said.
Devors says this trip, while expensive, has inspired him to get involved in politics back home in Illinois.
Lauren Chooljian covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @laurenchooljian.