Hill offices juggle high demand, scant supply of inaugural tickets

WASHINGTON – With 198 inaugural tickets to hand out and requests from 500 constituents, Rep. Martha McSally, R-Tucson, turned to an expert to handle the distribution – Lady Luck.

McSally’s office turned to a lottery to allocate the tickets – the 177 standing and 21 seated passes that all House members got – to constituents who were clamoring to attend the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Other offices used a first-come, first-served method to hand out tickets for what is one of the hottest tickets in town. But not all over town: Some Democrats said they still had tickets to give away Wednesday and were thinking about passing them off to their GOP colleagues.

Demand for inauguration tickets, which are free from the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, had even sparked a secondary market among scalpers, with tickets on eBay asking anywhere from $200 to over $5,000.

While members of Congress got tens of thousands of tickets to hand out, the JCCIC estimates that at least 700,000 people will turn out for the inauguration, with several agencies predicting higher numbers.

Staffers for Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, said their allotment of 198 tickets “were all given out pretty quickly.”

“There was a pretty high demand for tickets from Arizonans in our district,” said Steven Smith, a Gosar spokesman.

Gosar used a first-come, first-serve basis, as did Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, whose office had more than 600 requests for the 393 tickets allocated to Senate offices.

McSally spokesman Patrick Ptak said that in an attempt to accommodate as many constituents as possible, their office reached out to other lawmakers for unused tickets.

Lawmakers like Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Sedona, who said his office was “having a hard time giving tickets away” because his constituents were not too enthusiastic about the president-elect.

O’Halleran’s office started taking phone and online requests for tickets in December, but it had allocated just 120 of its 198 tickets by Wednesday.

“The ticket allocation kept a good pace,” said Cody Uhing, O’Halleran’s press secretary. “It was nothing out of the ordinary.”

He said the Democrat’s office “was happy to give away tickets to whoever requested them.” O’Halleran, a freshman, “didn’t know what to expect,” Uhing said. “We just played it by ear.”

Arizona’s other freshman, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, quickly ran out of tickets, which it gave out on a first-come, first-served basis, aides said.

Communication Director Daniel Stefanski said Biggs’ office received an “overwhelming number of requests.”

“We got more support than what we expected,” Stefanski said. “We are thrilled to see this level of enthusiasm for our incoming president.”