Chicago will play host to the 2024 Democratic National Convention, the party announced Tuesday, putting the Windy City and the Midwest as a whole front-and-center in next year’s presidential campaign.
President Biden and Democratic National Committee (DNC) leaders ultimately chose Chicago over Atlanta, which was viewed as the next closest competitor, as well as New York City.
Here are five reasons why Democrats ultimately opted for Chicago, which lasted hosted a Democratic convention in 1996.
The Blue Wall argument
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was among the Midwest governors and leaders that wrote to President Biden and the DNC about hosting the 2024 Democratic National Convention in Chicago due to the political importance of the Midwest. (Anthony Vazquez/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, File)
The political case for Chicago relied on the importance of the Midwest battleground states, with neighboring Wisconsin and Michigan especially pivotal not just in the presidential contest, but in Senate, House and state-level races as well.
The governors of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, along with federal and local representatives from each of those states, wrote to Biden and DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison last month to argue that picking Chicago would be a nod to the political importance of the Midwest.
“The general election in 2024 will be a battle with many fronts, and the Midwest will be the hardest fought of all,” the leaders wrote. “That is why in 2024, we must do everything we can to ensure the blue wall becomes an impenetrable blue fortress. Holding the convention in the Midwest is a serious, meaningful endorsement of our values.”
The “Blue Wall” of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania has been central to Democrats winning the White House for decades. Biden carried all three states in 2020, flipping each of them after former President Donald Trump narrowly won them in 2016.
“Chicago’s convention bid was supported by a wide range of midwestern Democrats who represent the diversity of the party, demonstrating the formidable coalition that will help elect Democrats up-and-down the ticket in 2024,” the DNC said in a statement Tuesday.
Republicans will host their 2024 convention in nearby Milwaukee, Wis., underscoring the importance of the region.
Some Democrats had forcefully argued Atlanta made more sense from a political perspective, making the case that Georgia was an increasingly purple state that helped Democrats secure both the White House and control of the Senate in recent elections.
“While it is disappointing that we will not gather in Atlanta in 2024 you can count on southern Democrats to be there with bells and whistles on to help you and @JoeBiden cause a little #GoodTrouble2024 in Chicago!” former Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), a close Biden ally who advocated for an Atlanta convention, tweeted Tuesday.
The Chicago city skyline is covered by the fog lifted off Lake Michigan on Aug. 5, 2022, in Chicago. Democrats have chosen Chicago to host their 2024 national convention. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)
Officials who have staffed previous conventions emphasized in interviews with The Hill that politics is far from the only factor in choosing a host city, and may not even be the most important.
Much of the decision ultimately comes down to whether a city is prepared to handle the influx of thousands of visitors — delegates, donors, media and party officials — and all that comes with it.
Supporters of the Chicago bid believe the city is up to the task.
Chicago has hosted several Democratic conventions before, most recently in 1996 and most notoriously in 1968, when the event was marred by protests.
The United Center, home to the NBA’s Bulls and NHL’s Blackhawks, has nearly 2 million square feet of event space and can hold nearly 21,000 people.
The city has two major airports, a well-established public transportation system, and hundreds of hotels in the city itself and the broader metropolitan area.
Chicago’s milder climate in the summer compared to Atlanta was also a draw, and it is located more centrally than either Atlanta or New York City, making it easier for donors, lawmakers and media to get there in the heart of campaign season.
Strong union presence
Bob Reiter, President of the Chicago Federation of Labor, smiles during the Illinois Paid Leave bill signing Monday, March 13, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
One factor that aided Chicago’s bid over Atlanta in particular was the city’s strong union presence, something that appealed to Biden and his public image as a strong supporter of organized labor.
Labor advocates were skeptical of an Atlanta convention, noting that many of the city’s hotels do not have unions and the state as a whole is not as labor-friendly as Chicago and Illinois.
Bob Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, which represents more than 500,000 union members in the city, called Chicago and the Midwest the “center of the Labor Movement.”
In a tweet responding to news of Chicago hosting the convention, Reiter noted Illinois last year passed a workers’ rights amendment to guarantee a broad right to collective bargaining in the state. He also pointed to the support of organized labor in electing the Democratic candidate in a critical Wisconsin supreme court race earlier this month.
A Democratic-controlled state and city
Then Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson celebrates with supporters after defeating Paul Vallas after the mayoral runoff election, late Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in Chicago.
Part of the pitch from Illinois leaders was that the city and state are a bastion of liberal values and boast unified Democratic-led governments.
Gov. JB Pritzker (D), who has been floated as a potential presidential candidate in the event Biden opts not to run for re-election, has overseen the passage of a slew of Democratic priorities during his four years in office to date.
The governor and state legislature have approved a $15 minimum wage, ended cash bail, banned assault weapons and passed protections for gender-affirming care and abortion procedures at a time when both of those are being rolled back in GOP-led states.
In Chicago itself, the city last week elected Brandon Johnson, a former teacher and Chicago Teachers Union organizer, in a major win for progressives, defeating the more centrist Paul Vallas.
“Chicago is a world-class city that looks like America and demonstrates the values of the Democratic Party,” Johnson said in a statement Tuesday.
By comparison, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has in recent years signed laws restricting abortion access and gender affirming care, as well as an election law that Biden likened to “Jim Crow 2.0.”
A degree of cost certainty
National conventions are expensive endeavors, with cities footing the bill for security, event space and other logistical hurdles. The expected price tag for next year’s convention is between $80 million and $100 million.
Pritzker and his allies have sought to eliminate any concerns about cost, however, insisting they would be able to raise the necessary money.
Politico reported in March that the governor, his sister and former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts and businessman Michael Sacks had discussions about providing resources to fund the city’s convention bid.
Pritzker himself has an estimated net worth of more than $3 billion, and his family owns the Hyatt hotel chain.
“I’m thrilled Chicago has been selected to host the #2024DNC!” Pritzker tweeted Tuesday. “I look forward to welcoming everyone to the Midwest & showing off our diverse communities, impeccable hospitality, and world-renowned venues. There is no better place to tell the story of @JoeBiden & @KamalaHarris.”