WASHINGTON – The rush for inaugural tickets started earlier this year and has been heavier than anyone can remember, say staffers to Maryland’s members of Congress, who have been inundated with requests.
Both Democratic and Republican House members said that the 177 tickets they have to pass out for Saturday’s swearing-in are nowhere near the demand. On the Senate side, where members get 393 tickets, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D- Baltimore, has received two times that many requests, staffers said.
“This is more than I’ve ever seen,” said Dianne Baker, an aide to Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium, who has been handling inaugural tickets since 1988. Baker estimates that she received requests for more than 1,000 inaugural tickets, compared to hundreds in a typical inaugural year.
Aides to Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, say they have received an estimated 800 to 900 requests. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, got requests from more than 500 people. Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, has a waiting list of 300 people.
Baker and others also said the calls started coming earlier than usual this year.
“People started calling us in January of last year,” said Gilchrest staffer Tony Caligiuri, who told people to call back in June. “A lot of them just didn’t care who won (the election).”
Gilchrest’s constituents have until Saturday morning to pick up their tickets, or they will be handed out first-come, first-serve to those on the waiting list. Caligiuri noted that last year the office actually ended up giving leftover tickets to other offices.
Maryland’s proximity to Washington may explain why some offices here get so many requests, said Jonathan Dean, a spokesman for Rep. Connie Morella, R- Bethesda.
The historic nature of the election has also generated interest, added Darrell West, a political science professor at Brown University. Another political scientist agreed.
“The heightened interest in politics after the last election could be one general reason why they have received so many calls,” said John Aldrich, chairman of the political science department at Duke University.
Most Maryland congressional offices said they gave out one to four tickets for each request, with first priority given to constituents. Some Western congressmen were able to help Ehrlich out, giving his office a total of 25 tickets that they could not use.
But Ehrlich didn’t have to look more than a few miles west for relief: Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, actually has extra tickets remaining, said aides.
Cummings’ press secretary said that voters in the predominantly Democratic and African-American district have not lit up the phones because they “are angry” about the outcome of the election.
“They have not healed. The country has not healed,” after allegations of voting irregularities in certain minority communities in Florida, said Del Stewart.
Cummings, who is vice-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has said he will not attend the inauguration.