Ostensibly, they came together in a cozy Foggy Bottom apartment to celebrate Lincoln's birthday on Feb. 12. But what they really had in common was Chicago. And Olga.

Born in New Mexico and brought up in Queens, N.Y., Olga Corey learned her politics in the Windy City, where she lived and worked for several years doing public relations for Roosevelt University and the Chicago Urban League and was active in reform politics.

When she blew into Washington in 1965, to do public relations for the desegregation unit of the U.S. Office of Education, she was outraged to learn that the Great Emancipator's birthday was not a recognized holiday in this historically southern city.

So she started having her own party for Illinois' favorite son, and she has been holding them ever since.

"He was just the greatest president we ever had," she said of the Republican 16th president.

For the twenty-third Feb. 12, Olga and her friends gathered Friday night at her apartment, decked out in red, white and blue to look like what Olga called a "patriotic bordello."

No fewer than 18 pictures of "Honest Abe" adorned the living room, along with a few portraits of Harold Washington, the recently deceased Chicago mayor.

This year, the invitations portrayed Lincoln as a reluctant candidate saying, "Okay, okay, I'll run," an oblique reference to some Democrats' dismay over the current array of presidential choices.

With rare exceptions, the Lincoln's birthday celebrants at Olga's are Democrats, and liberal ones at that. Olga, who does media relations these days for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is a supporter of Chicagoan Jesse L. Jackson for president.

Her guests invariably have worked for liberal Democrats in Illinois and have had close ties to the civil rights and labor movements. They sang "Solidarity Forever," led by guitar-playing Joe Glazer, a labor movement troubadour who also led the group in a rendition of "We Shall Overcome," dedicated, he said, "to Mayor Harold Washington."

Even though their Chicago days are long gone, their Chicago identity remains secure. "You never really leave Chicago," said Olga, who wore a "CHICAGO WORKS" pin and a "VOTE" necklace.

"It's a shtetl," a small village, said Sarah Gotbaum, a New Yorker who lived in Chicago's affluent northern suburb of Evanston, Ill., then in New York for 11 years and now lives here. "I still get a weekly paper from Evanston and contribute to {Chicago} candidates. It's like an extended family. Olga's part of that," she said.

Not surprisingly, the evening was peppered with a lot of Chicago talk.

"It's cold, windy," announced Olga's arriving EPA colleague Vanessa Musgrave, formerly of Rockford, Ill.

"Illinois cold?" Olga asked.

"You'd think you're in the Loop. It's that windy," Musgrave said.

And, in true Chicago tradition, there was an election, in which everybody got to vote three times. Even the delivery man from the liquor store cast ballots. The birthday cake was decorated with a likeness of Lincoln and the words, "I'm running, I'm running," and the admonition to "vote early and often."

What the celebrants were voting for on Friday night was who would be this year's Democratic and Republican nominees, who would be the next president and -- in what was described as a fantasy question -- whom the partygoers would choose to be Lincoln's running mate if he were running today.

While the ballots were being counted, Ira Lopez, 10, a former upstairs neighbor of Olga's attending his 10th party, donned a stovepipe hat to read the Gettysburg Address. The two dozen or so assembled celebrants sang "Happy Birthday" to Lincoln, and also to Sally Byers, a guest who turned 34 Friday.

Then the voting results were announced by Joe Ames, retired secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Sens. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) and Paul Simon (D-Ill.) were voted the likely Republican and Democratic presidential nominees. The voters predicted that Dole will be the next president.

As for Lincoln's running mate, Ames announced a raft of nominees, led by "Don't Know" and concluding with one ballot that said, "Olga, who else?"