WASHINGTON -- Cheered on by busloads of relatives and well-wishers, Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest was sworn in today as Maryland's newest member of Congress.
The festive atmosphere on Capitol Hill was dimmed, however, by the threat of war in the Middle East. Lawmakers began attending a series of briefings by congressional leaders and Bush administration officials amid speculation that Congress would be asked to approve some sort of resolution.
Gilchrest, R-1st, said House Minority Leader Bob Michel, R-Ill., urged members to show Iraq a united front.
"If we hold on to our sense of unity and throw out partisan politics and decide that we as Americans want to solve this problem, we will," Gilchrest said.
Gilchrest said he was told some consideration was given to introducing a resolution like the one approved by the United Nations, giving Iraq a Jan. 15 deadline to withdraw from Kuwait.
But that was business. And it did not faze Gilchrest's young daughter, Katie, who sat with him on the House floor during the ceremonies.
Relatives and friends filled Gilchrest's office in the Cannon House Office Building and overflowed into the hallway, under his newly hung nameplate.
Gilchrest's parents from Rahway, N.J., his five brothers and an assortment of other kin drank soft drinks with visiting residents of the First District and well-wishers such as Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md.
"A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Barbara Gilchrest, Wayne's wife, as she busily greeted people.
Gilchrest's mother, Elizabeth, said she wasn't surprised by her son's election, although he is the first politician in the family.
"Wayne is a very determined person," she said, "and he believes everything he says because it's from his heart. He's been like that since he was a boy."
Gilchrest's campaign staff was on hand and recalled the two-year struggle to get him elected.
"We worked long and hard to get here," said campaign aide Emmett Duke.
Duke is one of several campaign aides who have been named part of Gilchrest's congressional staff. Tony Caligiuri has been named chief of staff.
One of the first chores faced by the Gilchrest staff is setting up his congressional office. It's not the office of his predecessor, Democrat Roy P. Dyson, but includes equipment and furniture from Dyson's old office. Despite the chaos, Caligiuri said he was pleased with the new office, which measures about 1,000 square feet.
"Relative to the other offices, this is one of the biggest," he said.
Caligiuri said Dyson has not assisted in the transition and that, in fact, he never has contacted Gilchrest since losing the election.
"Never heard from him," Caligiuri said.