Politics & Government

Bernie Sanders rally outgrows Orpheum, moved to Century II

A Friday political rally featuring former Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders and rising progressive star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been moved to the Century II Convention and Performing Arts Center after rapidly outgrowing its original venue at the Orpheum.

Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are coming to Wichita to stump for Democratic congressional candidate James Thompson.

The campaign had planned on rallying at the Orpheum Theatre downtown, which can accommodate a crowd of 1,400.

But the number of sign-ups for tickets exceeded capacity within 10 hours of the announcement, said campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Yeager.

At the Century II, “we can go all the way up to 5,000 if we need to,” Yeager said. “There’s been overwhelming interest . . . and we want to try to accommodate everybody who wants to come.”

With the larger venue, the campaign is no longer requiring tickets be obtained in advance and is inviting anyone who wants to, to come, she said.

Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are expected to speak at 1 p.m. at Century II, 225 W. Douglas. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. and Yeager suggested people show up early to get the best seats.

Sanders, an independent U.S. senator from Vermont and self-described democratic socialist, energized hordes of progressive Democrats and filled stadiums across America for his rallies as he sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2016.

Although he lost to eventual nominee Hillary Clinton, Sanders emerged as a hugely popular figure and symbol of resistance for progressive and Democratic voters upset with Donald Trump’s administration.

Joining Sanders will be Ocasio-Cortez, a congressional candidate from New York who recently vaulted into the national spotlight with an uncompromisingly progressive primary campaign that unseated incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, the House Democratic Caucus chairman.

Thompson lost last year to Republican Rep. Ron Estes in a special election to replace former District 4 Rep. Mike Pompeo. Pompeo resigned to join the Trump administration as CIA director and was later promoted to secretary of state.

Thompson is running against Laura Lombard of Wichita in the Aug. 7 Democratic primary.