CHICAGO — Local leaders are vowing to make the Democratic National Convention “the best in history” when it comes to Chicago in 2024.
President Joe Biden announced Tuesday Chicago had been chosen for the convention, beating out Atlanta and New York. Mayor Lori Lightfoot — flanked by Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, Gov. JB Pritzker and other officials — said at a Wednesday news conference the president and Vice President Kamala Harris had made the “right decision.”
“We have said throughout this process that the road to reelection [for] Biden/Harris … has to go through the Midwest,” Lightfoot said.
The convention will also give Chicago the national spotlight in a positive way — something the city isn’t always able to do as Republicans try to frame the city as “violent,” Lightfoot said.
“We have too many things out there in the mouths of pundits and critics who talk about our city in a way that is unrecognizable to us. .. This will help us right that wrong and the truth about the best city in the United States,” she said.
Local leaders lobbied hard for about a year to bring the convention here, inviting party leaders to the city in July to make their case. Tens of thousands of people are expected to visit Chicago during the Aug. 19-22, 2024, convention, bringing in tourist dollars to hotels, shops and other local businesses.
But pundits have said last week’s mayoral win for Johnson — which made national headlines as it pitted the progressive Johnson against more conservative challenger Paul Vallas — could have given Chicago extra momentum.
The city also got a boost because it’s part of the Midwest’s “Blue Wall” of Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, which party officials will want to hold onto for the next presidential election, according to the Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet.
Jaime Harrison, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said it was hard for party officials to make a decision between the finalist cities — but Chicago ultimately stood out.
“We are thrilled to bring the Democratic convention back to the Midwest,” Harrison said. “This region was critical to President Biden and Vice President Harris’ 2020 victory. We won big here in 2020, and it will be part of how we win big again in 2024.”
When asked if the city is ready to host tens of thousands of visitors, Lightfoot touted infrastructure upgrades the city made ahead of hosting the 1996 Democratic National Convention. Not much will need to be done this time around, but whatever is needed will get done, she said. She did not offer specifics on who would bear the cost.
Since the 1996 convention at the United Center, the West Loop has sprung up as “one of the hottest real estate markets” in the country, Lightfoot said. A Green Line stop at Lake Street and Damen Avenue serving the United Center is in the works.
When it comes to safety, Lightfoot said homicides, shootings and carjackings are down year over year and the city will work with the FBI and secret service to secure convention sites.
“We always work at with an eye toward safety and security … We will do everything that we can in terms of the convention to make sure that we pull it off without a hitch,” she said. “I don’t have any concerns.”
Pritzker said officials will stick to the projected budget of more than $80 million for the convention. He previously promised the money will come from local Democratic fundraisers and the convention will be debt-free. There will be large support for the convention, with officials already getting financial commitments, he said.
Lightfoot said officials are committed to ensuring the convention features Chicago’s small businesses and local workers.
Johnson — who will take office May 15 — celebrated the win at Wednesday’s news conference, as well.
“I really look forward to working with the [Democratic National Committee] to facilitate a spectacular convention that showcases Chicago’s lakefront, everything around the hospitality sector, our diverse culture …,” Johnson said.
The convention is expected to be a $150 million economic boon for Chicago as party leader travel between the McCormick Place Convention Center for daytime business and the United Center for evening events.
Delegates will be housed in about 30 hotels across Chicago, according to reports.
Chicago has been home to dozens of Republican and Democratic conventions throughout its history, but it’s been nearly 30 years since the last convention was held here.
A the most recent Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1996, then-President Bill Clinton was nominated for reelection.
Before that, the city hadn’t held a major party’s convention since the infamous 1968 event, when riots broke out and the National Guard was called in.
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