ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — When Len Lucchi attended his first gubernatorial inauguration as a bright-eyed 20-year-old in 1979, he had no idea the ceremonies would be a regular part of his career.
Cut to 40 years later: Lucchi stands on the Maryland State House lawn. The bleachers are up, the sound system blasts in the heart of Annapolis. He looks on as workers prep for the inauguration where Gov. Larry Hogan would officially begin his second term.
This year’s ceremony is much like Lucchi’s first. Inaugurations used to take place on the State House lawn before the switch to Lawyers Mall, which is now under construction. Annapolis was covered in snowfall for his first ceremony as well.
Lucchi started his career as a state senate intern in 1978. He now lobbies for businesses and trade organizations as part of a Calverton firm based in Annapolis. No matter who he represents, the Bowie resident has found himself at each of the 10 ceremonies and balls since then.
“It’s another night of work,” he said. “We bring clients and clients from our office. It’s a networking night.”
But there was something special about that first ceremony the last 40 years haven’t quite matched. The state went through three governors in two days.
Blair Lee became the governor in 1977 when Marvin Mandel went to prison for wire mail fraud but lost the 1979 election to Harry Hughes. When Mandel’s conviction was overturned five days before Hughes’ inauguration, Mandel was back in his office for two and a half days before Hughes took over.
“Governor Mandel was vindicated in the end but still a whole long protracted episode the state went through,” Lucchi recalled. “The state troopers were going nuts because it was the next (governor) to the next to the next.”
Since then, he’s learned a few things. Firstly: Democratic balls tend to be more laid back. Lucchi reminisced on watching Martin O’Malley jump on stage to play guitar with the Saw Doctors at his first inaugural ball in 2007.
A lot has changed since his first gala as a college kid, but Lucchi said the spirit of the events has remained the same.
“I hadn’t worn a tuxedo since my prom. It was so exciting. I was one of the youngest, now I’m one of the oldest,” he laughed.
“There’s a couple thousand people at each one. And each one of them wants to shake the hands of the other 1,999. It just shows that in a system like Maryland we don’t have the same kind of gridlock like in Washington. Democrats and Republicans are still friendly with one another and can talk and toast each other with a drink. It’s just different.”
When it comes to inaugural speeches, nothing has beaten Parris Glendening’s 1995 speech in which he had a woman interrupt him to sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” as a tribute to his then wife.
After all these years, sitting in the cold to see a governor start the new term hasn’t gotten old.
“It’s always fun hearing a governor — especially a first-term governor — talk at the ball about the hope and the change and the things they want to do,” Lucchi said. “Whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat there’s still excitement about having a new governor.”
Information from: The Capital, http://www.capitalgazette.com/