Wednesday, January 17, 2001

GOP backers set to party


Hundreds will attend from Tristate

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — Terri Moore will toss her ball gown, shoe bag and a great deal of patience into a Travel America bus in Walton, Ky., at 5 a.m. Thursday for a 10-hour ride to party with George W. Bush.

        You want inaugural elegance? They're taking videos of Casablanca and The American President. You want cool? They might have a gin-rummy tournament.

        “We just cannot wait,” said Mrs. Moore, who organized the trip for 53 die-hards. Her husband, Ed, is the Boone County Republican Party chairman, so the family has suffered through the presidential campaign, the election and the recount. “I tell you, we'd go even if we didn't have tickets to anything.”

        A presidential inauguration is the transfer of power from one administration to the next, a ritual that celebrates the will of the people — or at least the Electoral College — in a democracy. But for party activists who fought for their candidate through the campaign, it is also a victory lap — a loud dance down Pennsylvania Avenue with marching bands and a Secret Service escort.

        More than 700 people from Ohio and about 500 from Kentucky will arrive here in the next few days for a blur of brunches, lunches, cocktail hours, dinners and dances.

        The Presidential Inaugural Committee, led by Cincinnati investors William O. DeWitt Jr. and Mercer Reynolds III, has tried to make the party accessible to everyone, but inaugurals are historically the domain of the rich and well-connected.

        Republicans sent out more than 100,000 invitations to financial donors, party officials and activists, who had first crack at coveted tickets to the inaugural ceremony, the parade and the eight official inaugural balls. The inaugural committee has sought to raise about $30 million in private financing to pay for the events and to keep ticket prices reasonable.

        The cost for bleacher seats at the parade ranged from $15 to $100, while tickets to the official inaugural balls were $125. Three candlelight fund-raising dinners on Thursday - including one at Union Station with former Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench - went for $2,500 a ticket or $25,000 a table.

        Many of the events are free, but tickets were hard to come by without a good source and quickly snapped up. Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, had given out his allocation of about 200 inaugural tickets by late December. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, and Rep. Ken Lucas, D-Ky., also distributed their tickets and have waiting lists in case some people drop out.

        “You have folks who are interested in showing there is a lot of support for George W. Bush given the controversy of the election,” said Gary Abernathy, a spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party.

        The four-day party starts Thursday with an opening ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial with pop singer Ricky Martin and other entertainers. The inaugural ceremony, where Mr. Bush will take the oath of office and become the 43rd president of the United States, is scheduled for Saturday, along with the parade and the official inaugural balls. The White House will be open Sunday afternoon for public tours.

        The Butler County Mounted Police from Hamilton will march in the inaugural parade, along with the Ohio State University marching band and an open-cab fire truck driven by the founder of the Lincoln Highway Museum in Galion, Ohio.

        Meanwhile, the Ohio Republican Party will have a reception Friday evening at Sequoia, a restaurant along the Potomac River. Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican who campaigned for Mr. Bush, has planned a breakfast reception Saturday morning at a suburban Virginia hotel.

        The interest level in Ohio was so intense that the state was one of two - along with Florida where Jeb Bush, brother of the president-elect, is governor - to have its own official ball Saturday night. All the official balls will have similar decorations and the theme “Celebrating America's Spirit Together.”

        Comedian Drew Carey, who is from Cleveland, will be host at the Ohio ball at the Washington Convention Center with country-western singer Linda Davis. The Guy Lombardo Orchestra and The Pictures will play for guests, who each will receive a commemorative souvenir. Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, expect to make brief appearances at each ball.

        Chip Gerhardt, executive director of the Hamilton County Republican Party, reluctantly will leave his wife and three children back in Anderson Township - they couldn't find a baby sitter - and hook up with friends here this weekend.

        “Many of us were true believers for a long time,” he said. “I'll be excited when I see his hand on the Bible and hear him take the oath.

        “It's been a long time coming.”

        Mrs. Moore of Florence said she wants to catch the Kentucky Society of Washington Bluegrass Ball on Thursday night, three congressional receptions, the inaugural ceremony, the parade and some sightseeing before climbing back on the bus Sunday.

        “We're all activists.” she said. “Or we sure wouldn't be doing this.”

        Not all the Tristate people going to the inauguration are partisans who had a direct stake in the outcome of the election.

        Campbell County High School teacher Geoff Besecker is leaving for Washington with 26 of his advanced U.S. history and government students for a week of seminars and inaugural events.

        Rebecca Blunk, a 17-year-old senior from Alexandria, will be one of the students. Her mother's boss helped her raise money for the trip.

        “I want to see anything and everything; I want to learn it all, because knowledge is power,” Miss Blunk says. “We're going to see history made.”

       Reporter Howard Wilkinson contributed to this article.
       

Tone will be different from Clinton/Gore celebrations
       



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