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Eye On Olympia

Presidential inauguration: the view from the state capitol…

The capitol rotunda and hallways were like a ghost town this morning, as staffers and lawmakers crowded around TVs to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

In the darkened state Senate, about a dozen lawmakers sat at their desks, peering up at a big-screen projection on the wall. Up in the public galleries overhead, dozens of visitors also watched in silence.

Below, in the Democratic caucus room, exuberant senators laughed as Chief Justice John Roberts and Obama stumbled over the oath of office. Then they cheered.

“I think we’re entering a more hopeful period,” said Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane. As he watched the nation’s first African-American president sworn in, Marr said, he thought of the racial dark days of the OJ verdict and Rodney King beating.

“To think that we would stand up this day a few short years later is pretty amazing,” he said.

Sen. Bob Morton, R-Kettle Falls, watched in his office.

“I had a little lump in my throat for those who’d worked so hard otherwise,” he said of the Democratic president’s victory. “It would have been more joyful the other way.”

In the House Republican caucus room, beneath portraits of Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, a few lawmakers and staffers sat in silence, watching a projection TV. Nobody spoke.

Across the chamber, people were crammed into the standing-room-only House Democratic caucus room, where a sheet cake waited on a staffer’s desk. “Go Obama!” it read.

Lawmakers, some wiping away tears of happiness, looked up at the screen. Outside, a toddler squealed with delight and wheeled a stroller around the abandoned floor of the House of Representatives.


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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