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Presidential debate tickets are reserved for the exclusive few

Preparations are underway at the David S. Mack

Preparations are underway at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, as Hofstra University gets ready to host the first 2016 presidential debate. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Donors waiting for the call. Students refreshing their email. Politicians hoping a congressional vote ends early.

Members of Congress and freshman media majors have the same goal: Come Monday night, get to Hofstra.

But tickets for the first presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are reserved for an exclusive few.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said she has a seat because she’s been invited. So has Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican.

Many others still wait.

The Commission on Presidential Debates expects to release 1,100 tickets that will be divided among Hofstra University students, guests of the Trump and Clinton campaigns, sponsors and donors of the commission, security guards and representatives of the media.

More than 7,500 Hofstra students have entered an online lottery for tickets — several hundred are to be allocated to students.

With commission officials still adjusting the layout of the debate stage, it was unclear this week how many tickets would be available.

Suffolk County Republican chairman John Jay LaValle, often a surrogate for Trump on cable news shows, said he would be going to the debate, but that many top elected officials in Suffolk County had been snubbed. “I can tell you that a lot of people were left out of tickets — some very significant people that deserved to be in the room,” LaValle said.

Local political party chairs and surrogates for the campaigns say they have been inundated with requests for tickets.

Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic National Committee member from Great Neck who fundraises for Clinton, got his invitation to the debate on Tuesday.

“I’m honored to be invited,” Zimmerman said. “I wouldn’t have been offended if I wasn’t.”

But, he said, “The good news is: I don’t have any role in giving out the tickets.”


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