Inauguration tickets a hot-item for some Utahns
Washington • Salt Lake City's Alexis Waters stood with a historic and massive crowd four years ago in Washington to see Barack Obama swear an oath and become the first African-American U.S. president. And Waters plans to be there again in January when Obama steps into his second term.
"I am excited to experience history again," says Waters, who won two tickets in a lottery run by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, for the Jan. 21 inauguration.
She is one of hundreds of Utahns who have asked their members of Congress for tickets, though the requests are far fewer than the deluge the offices received for the 2009 inauguration, which brought more than a million Americans to the nation's capital to witness firsthand the presidential transition.
About 6,500 tickets were requested for Obama's first inaugural, though fewer than 1,000 people were lucky enough to win a coveted spot. This time around, the demand isn't great.
"I've had requests from time to time," Sen. Mike Lee said last week. "They're probably not the same number of requests I might have received had the election turned out differently."
Had Mitt Romney bested Obama, Utah's members of Congress undoubtedly would have faced an unprecedented onslaught of ticket requests.
The Beehive State, which considers Romney an adopted son, gave the Republican candidate his largest margin of victory over Obama, with Romney taking 73 percent of the vote.
On the opposite side, the nonvoting congressional delegate from the District of Columbia which gave Obama 91 percent of its vote this year says she's asking her colleagues to donate tickets to her office.
"Unlike other jurisdictions ... my constituents have only one office to turn to for inauguration tickets," Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said in a recent letter.
So far, Norton's office says it's received more than 2,500 requests and has fewer than 200 to hand out.
Waters, 30, who just launched her own caramel shop, Sweet Janes, said she was "super excited" to learn from Matheson's office that she would have passes for the inauguration. She plans to take her sister, Sarah Waters, who nabbed tickets to the 2009 event.
Alexis Waters voted for Obama both times and is supportive of his health care reform efforts, especially after being diagnosed with skin cancer and facing a tough time finding health coverage with a pre-existing condition.
"I know that Obama won't give up on middle-class Americans and that at least there is discussion happening as far as health care," Waters says. "Although Obamacare isn't the perfect answer, it is a change that needs to happen."
Five of Utah's six members of Congress are Republicans who didn't support Obama's re-election, but their offices say they are working to help Utahns who want to attend the inauguration.
Each senator is expected to get nearly 400 tickets most of them standing-room only but Sen. Orrin Hatch's office says it has only received about 200 requests and Sen. Mike Lee's count is about 330 now.
Matheson's office has allotted all 197 tickets it received and is pleading with other offices for more tickets to fill additional requests from Utahns.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz has about 200 tickets to hand out and will determine later this week who gets the prized passes. The office isn't sure of the number of requests but says it's down significantly from four years ago.
"We have less requests than we have tickets," Chaffetz said. "Look, President Obama's first inauguration was quite historic, this one, I guess, will serve in the history books but not as much as the first one."
Rep. Rob Bishop has 300 requests but only about 200 tickets, and his office says those Utahns in Bishop's 1st Congressional District get first dibs.
Utah's new member of Congress, Rep.-elect Chris Stewart, has also received nearly 200 tickets for the inauguration for his soon-to-be constituents but faces a difficult quandary since he can't have a website on the House system until he's sworn in.
In the meantime, Stewart is holding on to the tickets and will dole them out as soon as he takes office Jan. 3.
"It'll be a quick allocation system come the third," says his chief of staff, Brian Steed.