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NY Democratic presidential debate tickets hard to come by

Workers prepare for a debate between Hillary Clinton

Workers prepare for a debate between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders at Duggal Greenhouse at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Monday, April 11, 2016. The debate, which will hosted by CNN and NY1, takes place Thursday, five days before the New York presidential primary. Credit: Charles Eckert

In New York, there’s finally a tougher ticket than “Hamilton.”

Seats for the Democratic presidential debate in Brooklyn Thursday are reserved for the party faithful, with none available to the general public.

Eight hundred of the 1,100 seats will go to the campaigns of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to CNN. The cable network is partnering with NY1 to broadcast the debate from the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Duggal Greenhouse, five days before New York’s Democratic primary. The networks are allocated tickets, too.

The debate in New York has generated intense backroom bidding by the candidates’ friends, surrogates and county party leaders, who all want a seat.

“That ticket might be harder to get than a luxury seat at the seventh game of the World Series with the Yankees versus the Mets, ” said Jonathan Tasini, a labor activist and Sanders surrogate who plans to be at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to serve as a CNN panelist who will comment after the debate. “There’s a lot of people clamoring for those tickets. It’s a Democratic state.”

Harrell Kirstein, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said the campaign provided tickets to supporters, volunteers and people who reached out to the campaign.

“It’s not going to be many people” who get tickets, said Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, the Clinton campaign’s coordinator of the state’s 62 county Democratic leaders. “The campaign was not allocated enough tickets to make everyone happy.” He said there are lotteries for campaign volunteers and for those “who have helped.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Clinton supporter, said he received a ticket after filling out online forms. When offered a seat, he was reminded that he should answer soon since there was great demand.

“It’s been a long time since the New York primary has mattered,” Bellone said.

Suffolk Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer said Democrats in Babylon Town, where he serves as supervisor, have inundated him with ticket requests. “They’d like to be on stage with Hillary and Bernie. They’ve emailed, called or texted about it.”

Karthik Ganapathy, a Sanders campaign spokesman, said the campaign is distributing tickets to “some of Bernie’s most passionate and enthusiastic supporters and volunteers in New York,” instead of holding a lottery. He added, “their tireless work every day is what makes our political revolution possible, and they deserve to see Bernie on stage, laying out his vision in person.”

But most who try will strike out.

Bob Liff, a Democratic political consultant and Clinton supporter, had hoped to bring his Sanders-supporting daughters, ages 17 and 19. He was unsuccessful.

“All of a sudden, we’re actually relevant. It’s so amazing that we actually count this year,” said Liff, 67, of Manhattan. “We will watch from home.”

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