- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

Republicans danced into the night last night with two balls in Baltimore celebrating the inauguration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.
Mr. Ehrlich mingled with supporters at a VIP reception at the Warehouse at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, while others gathered in a club-level ballroom to celebrate to music by a rhythm-and-blues band.
Outside the Baltimore Convention Center, where 4,000 supporters were celebrating the first Republican victory in the state in 36 years, the Baltimore Westsiders marching band greeted partygoers on a cold and crisp January night.
Inside, the crowd made its way toward the ballroom while the Goldenaires played big-band classics.
Tim Leung, 36, a computer-systems administrator for United Parcel Service, said he had attended two presidential inaugural balls, but Mr. Ehrlich's shindig at Camden Yards topped those.
"It's a little nicer being at Camden Yards, instead of being at a convention center," he said. "This marks the end of 36 years of [Democratic] tyranny we've been under."
Meghann Siwinski, 24, a public relations specialist in Baltimore, said the overflow crowds at the two balls were a testament to Mr. Ehrlich's call for a change in state politics.
"The group that has come out today signifies that this is time for change, that so many people support this great guy who is now governor," she said.
Former Tennessee Sen. William E. Brock III was among the guests at Camden Yards waiting for Mr. Ehrlich to give his speech last night.
"I've been on a high since the election," said Mr. Brock, a former Republican National Committee chairman who now lives in Annapolis. He sought to make history of his own in 1994 as the first person ever elected to the U.S. Senate from two states. He lost to incumbent Paul S. Sarbanes.
"When you live in a state like this, which has had one-party rule for so long, you know there are a lot of cobwebs to get out of the attic."
"What you see with Bob is what you get. This is so exciting because the state is so hungry for someone they can count on to do what they say they will do."
Mr. Ehrlich was sworn in at noon yesterday as Maryland's 60th governor, becoming the state's first Republican governor since Spiro T. Agnew took the oath of office in 1967. The ceremony had added historic significance in that Mr. Steele became the first black elected to statewide office in Maryland.
The enthusiasm of the state's long-marginalized Republican faithful for Mr. Ehrlich, as well as an outpouring of Democratic support that helped fuel his win, was on display last night at the two inaugural balls.
"Tomorrow the business of government begins for us," Mr. Steele told the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at the Camden Yards ball. "We want to sincerely thank everyone here for being a part of history. There is a sense of excitement in Maryland today, and you are all respnsible for it.
"We've got a lot of work to do. We are going to party hard tonight, so enjoy it. Tomorrow is the first day of the Ehrlich administration," he said, as a roar rose from the crowded celebration. "We've said change is coming. It's here, and we are ready to serve. We are ready to lead."
Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele were greeted by enthusiastic cheers as they removed their tuxedo jackets and stood on stage.
"We want to thank everyone here for being a part of history," Mr. Ehrlich said. "A lot of people thought we were off our rockers when we entered this race, including a lot of our immediate relatives."
About 7,000 tickets were sold for the two galas.
Only one ball, at the Convention Center, was planned initially, but the 4,000 $100 tickets sold out in a week and a second ball was organized at the same time at nearby Oriole Park at Camden Yards. About 2,000 people bought $100 tickets for that party.
The sellout gave Republicans cause to believe there was lasting power to Mr. Ehrlich's appeal, which carried him to a decisive victory over Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1.
Both black-tie events last night included buffets of roast beef, petite crab cakes, turkey, mashed potatoes and pasta, as well as live bands and dancing in ballrooms decked out in Maryland motifs.
The Ehrlich celebrations likely will cost more than $1 million. About half the expenses will be paid out of proceeds from ticket sales. Corporate sponsors are financing most of the rest of the inaugural expenses.
The balls capped a week of inaugural events celebrating the Republican victory.
The events started Saturday when Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele hosted a children's event at Howard Community College in Columbia, where about 350 children were treated to a carnival-type play day and a mock swearing-in of the new state executives.
The festivities continued Sunday, when Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele celebrated their hometown origins. They attended Mass at Mr. Steele's church, St. Mary's in Landover Hills, and later visited Mr. Ehrlich's hometown of Arbutus for an old-fashioned parade.
They threw an "Inaugural Jam" at Hammerjacks nightclub in Baltimore on Monday night, where several hundred supporters paid $20 to join Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele for a rhythm-and-blues hoedown.
The next morning, Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele attended a prayer breakfast at Bowie State University. The Spinners, Mr. Ehrlich's favorite band, played an inaugural concert Tuesday night at the University of Maryland's College Park campus.
All told, the five-day celebration cost about $1 million, with private donations paying the tab. Fifteen corporations chipped in $20,000 each. Business sponsorships started at $1,000, but smaller donations from individuals poured in as well, Mr. Ehrlich's inaugural committee said.
Corporate sponsors also paid a large share of the bill for Gov. Parris N. Glendening's second inaugural celebration, which cost about $865,000 and was attended by about 3,000 people. Before that, inaugural events had lost some of their luster in Maryland.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer spent just $30,000 on his inaugural in 1991, opting to forgo a ball. At his first inauguration in 1987, his celebration amounted to little more than a 10-minute speech and some patriotic songs.


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