The circus is coming to town

As the New York primary approaches, the Empire State will get a taste of what much of the country already has been bombarded with — the circus coming to town.

For Hillary Clinton’s campaign, that has meant a slow and steady build-up to a flurry of get-out-the-vote activity before the primary.

Events across the state are being used to recruit and solidify support among Clinton volunteers — Clinton will be campaigning at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Wednesday, building on nearly 20 other events since March 22.

At one such recent event in Flatbush, about 15 supporters gathered to plan GOTV and phone-banking campaigns. Attendees were eager to get their hands on Clinton lawn signs and posters, and planned to activate local networks such as the Shirley Chisholm Democratic Club, a political group named after the first female and first black politician to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

By contrast, the Sanders campaign, which until now relied on the work of self-organized supporter groups such as Team Bernie NY, launched its official campaign on Saturday at a crowded block party in Gowanus.

Large events have been successful tools for the Sanders campaign in attracting media attention and galvanizing support. Sanders regularly turns out thousands of supporters to stadiums and arenas across the country.

A rally at Safeco Field in Seattle drew 15,000 supporters the night before Sanders’ victory in Washington.

Sanders has indicated plans to go after New York and its 247 pledged delegates vigorously, and he’ll need to overcome Clinton’s longstanding institutional ties in the state. A raucous televised rally could help to convince undecided voters of Sanders’ viability.

Sanders’ campaign said plans for the New York campaign were “still coming together.”

Ahead of any announcement, we put together a shortlist of venues for the senator, should he choose to double down in his home borough of Brooklyn.

Barclays Center
Barclays Center and its more than 18,000 seats would provide an indoor, extremely central location for a rally — and it’s nearly within shouting distance of the Clinton campaign’s headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn. Sanders has raised millions since his big win last weekend (on top of an already healthy fundraising base), so he has the cash to afford a marquee space.

But if Sanders is looking to repeat the rousing final-weekend rally he had in Washington, he’ll be left with a Sunday night slot, given boxing matches scheduled on Saturday and Monday.

Kings Theatre
A relatively cozy event space in the heart of Brooklyn, the Kings Theatre was a famed movie palace for much of the last century but opened as a live space last year.

With 3,271 seats, this would be more on the scale of Sanders two earlier rallies in Manhattan’s Town Hall, where he held a fundraiser and a speech on Wall Street earlier in the campaign.

The theater would make for good TV with presumably packed rafters and good acoustics, but it wouldn’t be the enormous crowd that might have the shock and awe factor to move New Yorkers to the polls. 

Brooklyn College
Sanders attended Brooklyn College but did not graduate, and the proud CUNY senior college would be a good backdrop for his call to waive the cost for public college tuition.

The campaign held a voter registration drive featuring Danny DeVito on campus last week. The east quad, home to the college’s graduation ceremonies, could fit around 5,000 supporters, says Ernesto Mora, a spokesman for the college.

But political events can’t be held for free on campus, and the college tends to stay away from those types of large-scale gatherings, Mora says, to avoid the appearance of making an endorsement.

MCU Park
Most amenable to the senator may be MCU Park in Coney Island, summertime home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, one of the Mets’ minor league affiliates.

Like Sanders, the stadium is a scrappy outsider in New York City — at the ultimate edge of the borough. Yet, as his campaign likes to say, it has a path to victory: multiple express trains.

The historic seashore in the background is also a reminder of Superstorm Sandy and the potential future of climate change: Sandy’s floodwaters hit the neighborhood hard.

The stadium can fit 15,000 and “has never hosted a political rally,” spokesman Billy Harner wrote in an email, “but has been visited by political figures over the years, including the last three New York City mayors, numerous members of congress, local politicians and other dignitaries.”

The path is paved.

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