Will it be New York, Chicago or Atlanta? Cities angle for 2024 Democratic convention

The jockeying is intensifying among cities vying to host the 2024 Democratic National Convention.

Atlanta, Chicago and New York City are the finalists to host the event next year, when it is expected to return to something more akin to the pre-pandemic affair with lawmakers, donors and media descending on the host city for nearly a week. All three cities have previously hosted Democratic conventions.

President Biden is expected to make the final decision once the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has vetted each of the sites, though a final choice is not expected until the spring, in line with when Biden formally announces his plans to seek re-election.

“It’s incessant, it’s nonstop but it’s not going to drive the decision-making here,” Patrick Gaspard, a former executive director of the DNC, said of the public and behind the scenes among advocates for the potential host cities.

“At the end of the day, if you’re sitting at the White House and the DNC, you’re telling a story not to the people gathered in the convention hall but to the millions of people you hope are going to be watching on TV,” added Gaspard, who is now the head of the Center for American Progress.

The governors of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, along with federal and local representatives from each of those states, wrote to Biden and Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Jaime Harrison on Wednesday making the case for Chicago as host city, arguing it would bolster the party’s standing in critical Midwest states that have been key to winning the White House.

“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.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) has backed the city’s bid to host the convention, but she failed to qualify for an April 4 runoff in her re-election bid. As a result, her replacement — either Paul Vallas or Brandon Johnson, both Democrats — will be central to the city’s case moving forward.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D), who last year had to ward off speculation he may seek the White House in 2024, has been outspoken about Chicago’s advantages as a potential host, pointing to its central location, its union labor, its status as a Democratic stronghold and its pleasant summer weather.

New York City similarly boasts the infrastructure to host large events, a strong base of donors and unionized labor. City officials held a small rally last weekend seeking to boost the city’s cause, with Mayor Eric Adams, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine in attendance.

Adams touted New York City as the “safest big city in America,” the “most diverse city” and the city with the country’s best hotels.

“When you bring the convention here you are going to send a message across America and across the globe, ‘We have the dream here,’” Adams said.

But some party officials say the convention should be reflective of the party’s electoral priorities and see Atlanta as a chance to put down a marker in a growing swing state that helped propel Biden and Vice President Harris into the White House and secure Democratic control of the Senate.

“While some pundits might argue that there is no correlation between a convention site and partisan performance in the ensuing election, holding the 2024 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta will have effects that reverberate far beyond Georgia’s borders,” lawmakers from a dozen Southern states wrote to Biden and Harrison in a January letter.

There are also a number of prominent Biden allies supportive of bringing the convention to Atlanta, including former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who recently left the administration, and former Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.).

Opponents of an Atlanta convention point to the city’s lack of unionized hotels, as well as the fact that Georgia is run by a Republican governor who has signed laws restricting abortion access and gender affirming care, as well as an election law that Biden likened to “Jim Crow 2.0.”

Ultimately, experts say, the decision may have as much to do with logistics as it does with politics. The host city must have the hotels and event space to accommodate thousands of people descending on the area, and it must be willing to foot the multimillion-dollar bill while its residents put up with additional traffic and security measures.

“I think the most important thing for Democrats to understand is that it doesn’t matter,” said Matt Bennett, who has worked on several Democratic campaigns and attended conventions in all three cities in the running for 2024. 

“In the end, no one cares where you host your convention. You don’t automatically win because you host your convention in a certain place.”

The 2020 convention was slated to be held in Milwaukee but was instead held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Biden and Harris delivering speeches from Delaware.

The 2016 convention was held in Philadelphia, and Hillary Clinton went on to narrowly lose Pennsylvania in the election. Then-President Obama was renominated at the 2012 convention in Charlotte, N.C., a state he, too, would lose by a thin margin in that November’s election.

“It isn’t about winning the state or having any impact on the voters there, what It really is about is ensuring that you have a smooth convention,” Bennett said. “They all have pretty good arguments. I think it will be about which makes the best logistical sense.”

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