- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2001

They're certain to whoop and holler as their man Dubya takes center stage. More than a few expensive Stetsons will be waved high, a heartfelt tribute expressed in fitting Texas style.

But many Republican supporters of President-elect George W. Bush, in town in droves for his inauguration tomorrow, say they feel excited that their candidate won a whisker-thin election but want to express their emotions with some dignity.

"This is no time to gloat," said Sarah Bascom, a spokeswoman for the Florida Republican Party, which is throwing a "Victory Party" for about 600 at the Loews L'Enfant Plaza hotel tonight.

"We are humbled and honored," said Miss Bascom, who arrived in town Tuesday. "Every single person is pleased with the outcome. With the recount, they worked very hard, so they are very happy and very excited to be here."

Her sentiments on celebrating with grace, even as the Republicans reclaim the White House from the Democrats after eight years, echo a directive from the Bush camp that the four days of festivities be focused on patriotism rather than partisanship.

Mr. Bush and Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney chose the inaugural theme "Celebrating America's Spirit Together" for that very reason, said Dirk J. Vande Beek, deputy communications director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

"I think that no matter what event you go to, people will see the spirit of that throughout," Mr. Vande Beek said. "This is a celebration about being Americans."

Robert Woodson, a Prince George's County resident and former Capitol Hill staffer who helped with the Bush transition, called the inauguration "long overdue" and predicted it will look and feel much different from those of the Clinton administration.

"I don't see a lot of wild celebrations or really large parties like there was during the last inauguration," Mr. Woodson said. "People are more subdued, and rightly so. This is a very different situation. There wasn't a lot of time to prepare and it isn't appropriate considering how things turned out in this election. But I am glad we are here."

Karen Glasgow, a Bush campaign volunteer visiting Washington from Orange County, Calif., described the approach of Inauguration Day as exciting.

"I went to the last inauguration because I should. I came to this one because I want to," she said. "After eight long years, I am looking forward to a tax cut and to conservative values coming to town."

At the Lincoln Memorial yesterday, Latin pop singer Ricky Martin headlined for the inaugural opening celebration. But not even his vigorous vocals or sensual dancing could hold a candle to the adoration expressed by the Republican faithful for the incoming president.

"Somebody came up to me and said, 'You here to see Ricky?' I said, 'No, I'm here for Bush,' " recounted Karin Henninger, 18, of Colorado Springs.

Miss Henninger, the youngest delegate to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, said she traveled here intent on attending as many inaugural events as possible. Her trip was a birthday present from her mother. She is staying with her uncle in Columbia, Md.

"I just got my invitation [to inaugural events] last week," Miss Henninger said. "I tried to get in and get more, but they were all filled. I've got tickets for the parade and inauguration ceremony in front of the Capitol."

As Mr. Martin's publicists handed out signs that read "I K Ricky," two young visitors from Los Angeles took them out of courtesy but mainly to use as protection from occasional raindrops.

"Oh, he's all right as a singer," said Mark Urista, 20, of Mr. Martin. "But we came for the inauguration of Bush. This is historic."

Other Bush supporters described their pride and how they traveled a long way to Washington to support their man, who won a hard-fought race.

Retired schoolteachers Tom and Anna Hays of Burkburnett, Texas, both in their 60s, said Mr. Bush will restore faith in the government and unite political parties.

"We love Governor Bush. We're very proud of him," Mrs. Hays said. "We have no doubt that he will get the job done."

Added Mr. Hays: "I think people will feel good about this country again."

Aaron Balster, 70, a retired electrician from Albuquerque, N.M., said he is thrilled to see the Republicans recapture the presidency after eight "long" years.

"We wouldn't miss the chance to come down here and celebrate," Mr. Balster said Wednesday as he walked along the Mall with wife Maureen, 66. "It's been way too long. It's definitely time for a change."

For Caroline Gilk, 54, a computer specialist from Austin, Texas, attending the inauguration also meant a chance to say farewell to her former governor.

"I just feel like Governor Bush is a part of my family," Mrs. Gilk said, while shopping for souvenirs Wednesday night at Union Station. "I'm going to miss him very much, but I know that this is going to be a great time for our country."

Charlie Schenker, 77, said he hopes the American people will give Mr. Bush a chance to prove himself.

"He won fair and square in my book," the retired businessman from Atlanta said. "I wish everyone would just give this guy a break and let him do what the voters put him there to do. I think he'll do a good job. Change is always good."

• Jabeen Bhatti, Ellen Sorokin and Arlo Wagner contributed to this report.


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