Democrats praise, grumble over decision for Chicago to host 2024 convention


(CHICAGO) — The Democratic National Committee’s decision to have Chicago host its 2024 convention caps a lengthy decision making process, leaving many Democrats pleased but others in rival cities wishing they had gotten the nod.

The DNC announced on Tuesday that the Windy City will hold the nominating convention, the party’s first full event since 2016, after the coronavirus pandemic rendered its 2020 bash, originally slated to be held in Milwaukee, a largely online affair. Chicago beat out Atlanta and New York City to win the confab, letting Illinois lawmakers take a victory lap due to the city’s progressive politics and strategic location in the hot regional battleground of the Midwest.

“It’s a testament to Chicago and Illinois’s priorities aligning with Joe Biden and the Democratic Party the past several decades. Abortion is legal and protected, assault weapons were recently banned, and Chicago is one of the strongest union towns in the country. We’re the complete package,” said Illinois Democratic strategist Tom Bowen.

Democrats who spoke to ABC News said Chicago checked several of the party’s most important boxes in terms of logistics, politics and policy. The city — home to 2.7 million people — is a travel hub and, having already hosted nominating conventions for both parties, has the existing infrastructure to absorb the tsunami of attendees.

It’s also a progressive city in a blue state situated in the middle of a national battleground. Illinois is located near Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, three competitive states that are at the heart of Democrats’ strategy to reelecting President Joe Biden next year.

“Illinois is the anchor of the blue wall states in the Midwest and the perfect place to springboard the reelection campaign’s work in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan,” Bowen said.

Coverage of the convention is likely to spill over into neighboring states, helping reach the kind of swing voters who may not live in Illinois itself.

The friendly politics of Chicago were underscored with last week’s election of progressive Brandon Johnson as mayor-elect over a more moderate Democrat with ties to conservative-aligned groups.

And on policy, having the party powwow in Illinois helps avoid awkward disagreements with a conservative state government. Biden and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker are largely aligned, and the state has adopted Democratic orthodoxy on both economic and hot-button social issues like abortion. The city also has a strong union presence in its hotels, something lacking in Atlanta.

And to top it all off, Pritzker, himself wildly wealthy with a deep fundraising network, personally assured national Democrats that they wouldn’t go into debt if they hosted the convention in Chicago.

“It’s no secret that the Midwest is key to holding the White House and electing Democrats up and down the ticket in 2024. Now, after all, Chicago and the entire Midwest looks like America and is the capitol at the heart of the nation,” Pritzker said in a victory lap on Tuesday.

“Illinois is home to a bustling metropolis, a strong rural tradition, thriving suburbs, not to mention a long-standing history rooted in civil rights and workers’ rights and reproductive rights,” he added.

Still, while picking Chicago may not have burned bridges in either New York or Atlanta, the decision ruffled some feathers in both cities, which would have enjoyed a surge of attention and a potential economic windfall if selected.

“The city would have received a significant benefit from the convention monetarily, from a tax perspective and from an image perspective,” said New York City-based Democratic Hank Sheinkopf, referencing ongoing concerns about crime. “The best cure for crime is people walking around, people believing there is no crime, that it’s overrated, [and] it’s not as bad as people think.”

And supporters in Atlanta pushed back on Democrats’ worries about unions’ smaller footprint compared to Chicago, saying the city’s role in delivering the Senate and White House for the party should have outweighed those concerns.

“Name the state that gave you the Senate, and a margin this time: Georgia. Name the state that put 2020 out of reach for Trump: Georgia. Shouldn’t the Democrats in those states see the Democratic convention in their state? We can’t always say we can only have conventions in states that only have x-number of labor hotels,” said Jarrod Loadholt, a partner in the Ice Miller law firm’s public affairs branch who lives in Georgia.

Still, strategists in other cities said any perceived snub wouldn’t harm cooperation with the national party moving forward.

“We couldn’t compete financially. There’s no shame in that,” said one Georgia Democratic strategist, referencing Pritzker’s financial assurances.

“We made a very good presentation. They took us seriously. And the Biden administration has someone in Georgia every week, so they are certainly not ignoring us. We are grateful to them. We look forward to continue working for them and reelecting them. There is zero anger and zero bitterness,” the strategist added.

While Biden himself has not officially declared his reelection campaign, he and members of his administration are fanning out across the country to tout the record of his first two years in office, including a bipartisan infrastructure bill and an effort to boost the domestic semiconductor industry.

“The period leading up to and through the convention also creates a unique opportunity to engage people throughout the region and to highlight the positive impact of Biden-Harris economic policies like the Infrastructure Act,” said Karen Finney, a former DNC official and a Democratic strategist with ties to the White House.

So far, Biden’s only challengers are self-help author Marianne Williamson and attorney and anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who filed paperwork to run and is expected to announce his bid on April 19.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.