Alaskans attend Bush inauguration festivities

Posted: Monday, January 22, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles was among a crowd of Alaskans who visited the nation's capital to participate in President George W. Bush's inauguration.

Knowles, his wife Susan and his trooper bodyguard hustled along downtown streets near the White House. Cold, drizzling rain put a chill on the governor, but not the whole affair.

''I thought it was great,'' Knowles said.

Knowles and other Alaskans attended several receptions preceding Bush's swearing-in ceremony Saturday morning.

Both Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young sponsored events for visiting Alaskans on Friday afternoon. They were followed by a gathering sponsored by the Alaska State Society, a social organization for Alaskans and those with an interest in the state.

Stevens said Bush knows more about real-life Alaska than any previous president. The new president spent some time in Alaska, including most of a summer in Fairbanks in the mid-1970s during pipeline construction.

And Bush's cabinet nominees are friends as well, Stevens said.

''They're people that Don, Frank and I know personally,'' he said.

Stevens said Alaskans had more seated tickets for the swearing-in ceremony than any state besides Texas. He said that was in part because he gave up tickets when former President Clinton was inaugurated; the organizers remembered and gave Alaska more this time, he said.

Young said Bush is a consensus builder.

''I do believe he is the one person who can bring the country together,'' Young said.

Sen. Frank Murkowski said the Bush administration will move rapidly.

''The real action is going to happen in the first year,'' he said. ''Another political crisis is coming in two years, so the thought is to get it done up front.''

The ''political crisis'' is the 2002 election. Republicans have control, but only by the narrowest of margins, in both houses of Congress. Now they also have the White House, the first time in 48 years that Republicans have controlled all three elected facets of the federal government.

Fairbanks City Mayor Jim Hayes and his wife, Chris, attended the events. Borough assemblymen Rick Solie and Jim Holm attended as well.

Victoria Hill, a delegate to the national Republican convention, and her husband, John, visited. John Hill owns Auto Service Co., the Toyota and Subaru dealership. John Cook, who works with his cousin Tyler Cook at Aurora Motors, also attended, as did Murkowski's daughter Eileen Van Wyhe and her husband Leon.

From elsewhere in Alaska came Mayor George Ahmoagak and Dennis Roper of the North Slope Borough. And Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Susan Butcher mushed her team down Pennsylvania Avenue in the Inaugural Parade.

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