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Published: Sunday, 1/21/2001

Inauguration is a relief for some Ohioans

WASHINGTON - Some of the Ohioans who helped put former Texas Gov. George W. Bush into the White House took a collective sigh of relief yesterday as he was sworn into office at the west entrance to the U.S. Capitol here.

After taking in the swearing in ceremony and the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, they contemplated the day's experiences last night at the Ohio Ball at the Washington Convention Center on 9th Street here. The new President stopped by to express his thanks to those who helped elect him.

“It's been quite an unusual day, as I am sure you might imagine,” Mr. Bush told the crowd of about 5,000. “We lost about 36 days of planning time [preparing for the inauguration]; so we called upon Ohio people to make sure everything went well.

“And I want to tell you something about the state of Ohio. It sure looked good in red up on that map on Election Day,” the President said, a reference to the maps used by media outlets to denote which candidate had won which state. Mr. Bush's states were red.

“This was a great experience,” said Paul Hoag, a GOP state central committee member from Toledo who was elected secretary of the committee last week. “It's the closest I've ever been to this transfer of power, and it made me feel like a new American.”

Mr. Hoag, a former candidate for the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, said he also attended the 1989 inauguration of President George H. W. Bush, but mostly just watched that proceeding from afar.

State Rep. Robert Latta and his wife, Marcia, attended the black-tie affair that featured host Drew Carey and visits by Vice President Cheney and his wife, Lynne, and the President and First Lady.

“This tux was at the Kennedy inauguration. I wasn't, but the tux was. That's how you can tell I'm a real Republican,” said Mr. Latta, whose father, former Congressman Delbert Latta, wore the outfit to the 1960 ceremony. Yesterday's ceremony was the forth inauguration Robert Latta has attended, including both of President Nixon's and the second for President Reagan.

President Bush “hit all the high notes in his speech,” Mr. Latta said. “He had all the messages that we had to have in there. There's been a really refreshing airing out of things here in Washington today. I am glad to go to sleep tonight knowing we have a new president and his name is Bush.”

Marcia Latta, sporting a sleek black off-the-shoulders evening gown, said she also appreciated the speech, in part because it was kept brief and allowed the tens of thousands who gathered to hear it in person to escape the cold morning temperatures and light mist.

She said it was “short but substantive.”

Toledo lawyer Tim Kuhlman, a former candidate for municipal judge, said he was moved by the day's activities that capped what he said was a tremendous first visit to the nation's capital.

“It's just great to be an American on a day like today,” he said. “And it makes you want to jump right back into the middle of the political pool again.”

Mr. Kuhlman, 34, is seen as one of the rising local stars in a rebuilding Republican Party.

Tahir Cheema, chief executive officer of Grand Aire fixed-based-operator at Toledo Express Airport, who hosted a rousing rally for President Bush in the closing weeks of his campaign last fall, attended his first inauguration ball with his wife, Judy; daughter Rebekah, and son, Zachary.

“This is excellent. A fantastic time. His speech was one in a million. Just right,” said Mr. Cheema.

About 2,500 people attended the Ohio Ball, one of nine official balls organized by the inauguration committee. The state was one of just a few to have a ball to itself, a political tribute to Ohio's importance in putting Mr. Bush over the top on Election Day.

Fritz Wenzel covers politics for The Blade. Email him at fritz@theblade.com.



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