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Even in a Blue State, Inaugural Tickets are Red Hot

By Megan McIlroy
Capital News Service
Friday, Jan. 14, 2005

WASHINGTON - Marylanders may still be able to get free tickets to see President Bush's inauguration Thursday -- if they have friends or family in Guam.

"We advised constituents to ask relatives in distant states for tickets," after the tickets allotted to Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, ran out, said Lisa Wright, his press secretary.

Like Bartlett, most members of Maryland's congressional delegation said they long ago ran out of the hundreds of free inaugural tickets that each office got to hand out to constituents.

Requests for tickets to the Jan. 20 swearing-in began arriving in some offices as early as October, and most of the tickets were claimed by Jan. 12.

Congressional staffers said Maryland's proximity to Washington helped spark the rush for tickets.

House members each got 197 tickets to give away, and senators had more than 300 tickets. Almost all of these tickets reserved standing room on the Capitol lawn.

Even in a blue state like Maryland demand is high, although it varied across the state. Bartlett's office is still getting hundreds of ticket requests from his heavily Republican district, while staffers for Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, said they had only been forced to turn away about a dozen people by last week.

Many offices doled out tickets to constituents on a first-come, first-served basis. Bartlett and Cardin both started getting ticket requests the day after the election, and handed them out in order until the supply was gone.

Some offices said they gave out most tickets on a first-come basis, but held some tickets in reserve for local government officials, service members or organizations in their districts.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, for example, gave a block of tickets to the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, a group of exceptional students who will be participating in a series of inaugural events this week.

But the Kensington Democrat gave out most of his tickets through a lottery. Staffers pooled the e-mail and phone call requests and pulled the winning names Tuesday.

"We've received somewhere between 300 and 400 requests," said Winston Sale, a Van Hollen aide.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., gave away more than 300 tickets, starting Nov. 3. More than half of those tickets were for standing areas. Her spokeswoman, Amy Hagovsky, said Mikulski gave her VIP seats to active-duty military members, to an advisory board that helps her with military academy appointments and to local Republican elected officials.

While the congressional tickets are mostly gone, those willing to pay for the privilege of seeing the swearing-in can buy them through scalpers, who were asking for hundreds of dollars for tickets Friday.

Die-hard inaugural fans without that kind of money can still hope to snag one of a few limited, general-admission standing room tickets that will be released on the day of the inaugural -- although binoculars will come in handy for the standing area far removed from the Capitol.

Copyright 2005 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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