Want an Inauguration Ticket? Get in Line

In his column last Sunday for the San Francisco Chronicle, former Mayor Willie Brown had a piece of advice for blue-state Democrats looking to score presidential Inauguration tickets: Call a Republican.

Preferably, a Republican in Oklahoma.

“I mean, how many people from Oklahoma think this is the nation's biggest historical moment?” the mayor ventured. “My bet is, not many. So lawmakers there will have plenty of tickets to give away.”

Maybe not. An informal survey of red-state congressional offices last week showed a surprising ticket crunch in places that you — and Willie Brown — might least suspect.

“I think it’s silly to assume there are no Democrats in a Republican district,” says Sara Lasure, communications director for Arkansas Republican Rep. John Boozman, whose office is among those feeling the ticket squeeze.

Stories out of GOP House offices in the two weeks since Election Day suggest that many people around the country are appealing to conservative members from far-flung corners of the country for an extra ticket here or there, only to find that there aren’t any left.

Each House member has an allotment of 198 tickets to distribute. And while Republican offices are by and large getting significantly fewer requests than Democrats, they are still fielding intense interest from within their own constituencies, let alone from those outside them.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-La.) says he’s received calls from students overseas telling him that they’ve already booked plane tickets to Washington for Jan. 20 hoping he's got a ticket to spare. They’ll have to get in line.

What about Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who infamously questioned Barack Obama’s patriotism in the leadup to the election? Well, as of last week, according to spokeswoman Mary Vought, her office was already informing people calling in for tickets that requests had exceeded capacity.

And Sarah Palin country?

“I have no idea how many names are on [our] list,” says Meredith Kenny, press secretary for Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young, “but I know it’s lengthy. It’s a bit premature to say what we will do with the tickets since we don’t even have them in hand yet, but it certainly appears as though we will be able to use all of our tickets.”

Alison Lynn, communications director for Republican Texas Rep. Mike Burgess says their office had received over 2,300 requests for tickets as of last week's end, more than 10 for each ticket they'll receive. And that's not to mention the numerous phone calls and 20 formal letters from Democratic members —including Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Mike Turner of Ohio, Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District, and Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania — pleading for extras.

When asked, Lynn couldn’t think of any Republican office that she’s heard of with tickets to spare.

“If they did,” she says, “it would be the best-kept secret in Washington."

Jason Chaffetz, the Republican congressman-elect from Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, says his office is planning on giving a portion to Democratic members. “I would hope that sometime soon, they would do the same for us,” he said.

Chaffetz has received numerous requests from around the country, and recalled one e-mail with a man from Brooklyn, who promised to vacation with his family in Utah in exchange for the hot tickets.

“That’s not going to have any weight on whether he will have any tickets,” says Chaffetz, “although it really made me smile. He and I have written back and forth now five or six times now. He is certainly doing everything he can to win me over.”

Still, Chaffetz is quick to beat back the notion that just because someone didn’t vote for Obama, that means they’re disinterested in the inauguration.

“It’s a historic moment,” he says. “We have patriotic Republicans who also want to attend.”

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