Democratic Party’s 2024 convention: The choices are down to Chicago, Atlanta

Chicago backers are increasingly focused on knocking out Georgia because it is a right-to-work state with few union hotel rooms. Gov. J.B. Pritzker will again pitch the president.

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Chicago is proposing using the United Center for the 2024 Democratic convention. Here, it’s filled to capacity during the opening session of the 1996 Democratic National Convention.

AP Photo

WASHINGTON — Chicago and Atlanta are the front-runners for the 2024 Democratic convention, with Houston officially out and New York’s chances fading, sources told the Sun-Times, with Chicago backers increasingly focused on disqualifying Georgia because it is a right-to-work state with few union hotel rooms.

The decision is up to President Joe Biden, who is expected to seek a second term.

A Democratic National Committee official confirmed that Houston was no longer in consideration. Sources familiar with the New York bid said the odds are against that city — with its expensive hotels — landing the event.

Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker, here for National Governors Association meetings running through Saturday, said in an interview with the Sun-Times that he would pitch the president — again— when he sees him in the coming days.

Pritzker, a billionaire, said as part of promoting the city’s bid, he was among those making upfront guarantees to the DNC that the party would lose no money if Chicago snagged the convention. That’s important because “almost all” Democratic conventions since 1996 —when it was last in Chicago — “have lost money for the DNC,” Pritzker said.

Blue state Illinois stands out as a “blue wall,” Pritzker said, a place where the policies of the Biden administration can be highlighted at a convention, with the Biden and Pritzker agendas closely aligned.

Illinois has an assault weapons ban; abortion rights locked in; workers rights laws; and, when it comes to infrastructure projects, Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois capital plan has been boosted with massive federal funding from Biden’s signature infrastructure bill.

“If you want to showcase what this administration is really all about, there’s no better city among the ones that are currently being talked about than Chicago,” Pritzker said.

The 2024 convention city may be announced in a few weeks. The decision to hold the 2020 Democratic convention in Milwaukee was made public in March 2019.

One of Atlanta’s selling points is that it is a presidential battleground state with Democratic pickup potential, given that it sends two Democratic senators to Washington.

Pritzker dismissed that argument.

“Is it really that purple? Well, it’s got a Republican governor, a Republican legislature, it’s got a majority of its congressional delegation is Republican. So I’m just saying — like you, I’ve been to Atlanta, I’ve been to Georgia, it’s a lovely place.

“The truth is, from a political perspective, that Illinois [is] in the center of the most important part of the country for the president to win. And the governor of Michigan, the governor of Minnesota, the governor of Wisconsin, all are on the team that is encouraging the White House to hold its convention in the center of the blue wall,” Pritzker said.

In 2020, Pritzker was one of the biggest donors to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

A central strategic component — as the decision on the convention nears — is to send the message to people in Biden’s orbit that Georgia’s status as a right-to-work state and the lack of Atlanta-area union hotels should rule out its bid.

Organized labor is a major player in the Democratic Party, with labor voters a key constituency. Employees in right-to-work states like Georgia cannot be compelled to join a union.

During side conversations at Tuesday and Wednesday meetings of the AFL-CIO Executive Council — the top governing body of the labor organization — a source who was there told the Sun-Times the union leaders discussed how they would be more “comfortable” with the convention in a state that recognized collective bargaining in its statutes.

Then there is the matter of hotels. A major Atlanta vulnerability is its lack of union hotels. Atlanta has only two union hotels, compared with 45 in the Chicago area.

Bob Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, told the Sun-Times, “Atlanta is in a right-to-work state where the legislature and governor absolutely turn their back on working people every step of the way. Why would we reward that?”

Last month, the CFL launched a digital ad campaign to support Chicago’s bid, targeting areas near the White House, aiming at “key decision makers and constituencies involved in the selection process,” the CFL said in a statement.

The ad said, “As Democrats, we live our values every day. That means supporting working people. Chicago is the Hometown of the American Labor Movement. We lead the nation in union hotels, event centers and worker advocacy. When you come to Chicago, you’re in the heart of democracy, progress and innovation.”

Biden traveled to Madison, Wisconsin, on Wednesday, and he was greeted with an ad in the Wisconsin State Journal to boost Chicago’s bid.

“President Biden, let’s defend the blue wall. Choose Chicago,” noting that Chicago is “union strong” and “built by organized labor.”

The Republican National Committee already announced its 2024 convention will be in Milwaukee.

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