2024 Democratic Convention pitched as economic boon for ‘all of our communities, not just a select few’

The city’s $80 million bid package beat out rival proposals from Atlanta and New York City, capping more than a year of campaigning to bring the convention back to Chicago for the first time since 1996.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks in front of Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson Wednesday at a lakefront news conference celebrating Chicago’s selection as host for the 2024 Democratic National Convention

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks in front of Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson Wednesday at a lakefront news conference celebrating Chicago’s selection as host for the 2024 Democratic National Convention

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other Democratic honchos on Wednesday vowed that the Democratic National Convention will provide an economic jolt extending far beyond downtown areas where thousands of politicos will descend next summer.

“This isn’t going to be a convention where the people who profit don’t live in Illinois, don’t live in Chicago,” outgoing Mayor Lightfoot said during a news conference outside the Shedd Aquarium, showcasing the skyline to celebrate the city’s selection as host of the party’s biggest spectacle in 2024.

“This is going to be a Chicago-featured event, and our small businesses, our workers are absolutely going to be benefiting front and center,” said Lightfoot — who will be long gone from City Hall’s fifth floor by August 2024, but who “was key in terms of making this decision,” according to Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison.

“We are thrilled to bring the Democratic Convention back to the Midwest,” Harrison said to a Who’s-Who crowd of state Democratic power players on an unseasonably warm spring afternoon.

“This region was critical to President [Joe] Biden and Vice President [Kamala] Harris’ 2020 factory. We won big here in 2022, and it will be a part of how we win big again in 2024.”

Officials formally announce Chicago’s selection as the 2024 host city for the Democratic National Convention.

Officials formally announce Chicago’s selection as the 2024 host city for the Democratic National Convention.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Touting the local benefits, Harrison said, “We want to make sure that the dollars that flow out of this convention are flowing into all of our communities, not just a select few.”

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, whose incoming administration next month will take over many of the convention logistics, said “the Democratic National Convention coming to the city of Chicago is one of the embodiments of one of the best investments you can make.”

“That’s why this is not just about certain neighborhoods benefiting from this convention,” Johnson said. “In case you all missed it, the United Center’s on the West Side of Chicago — a lot of good things coming out the West Side,” the Austin resident joked a week after winning the mayoral runoff.

Biden called Pritzker Tuesday to tell him Chicago would host the convention, which is projected to draw 50,000 visitors and deliver a much-needed shot in the arm to a pandemic-riddled hospitality industry.

The city’s $80 million bid package beat out rival proposals from Atlanta and New York City, capping more than a year of campaigning by the billionaire governor, Lightfoot and Duckworth — a DNC vice chair — to bring the convention back to Chicago for the first time since 1996.

“We’re an example of what it looks like when you work to solve the real challenges that working families face every single day,” Duckworth said. “And next summer, Chicago is going to give President Biden and Vice President Harris a platform to tell their story right in the heartland of our country.”

Democratic officials from nine states spanning the Midwest backed the bid to host in reliably blue Illinois, which, under Pritzker, has enacted policies supported by the Biden White House, including an assault weapons ban and a bolstering of abortion rights.

“A convention in Chicago, the center of the ‘Blue Wall’ of key states like Wisconsin and Michigan and Minnesota, will show that Democrats don’t take this region for granted, that this is key to victory in 2024,” Pritzker said.

Harrison said Chicago best fit the bill as “a turnkey operation,” complimenting a host city with plenty of experience.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison speaks outside the Shedd Aquarium Wednesday.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison speaks outside the Shedd Aquarium Wednesday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

It’ll mark Chicago’s 26th political convention — the 12th Democratic one, along with 14 Republican gatherings — since 1832, the most of any American city. That includes the infamous 1968 Democratic convention which devolved into outbursts of police violence against anti-war protesters.

But officials are aiming for a repeat of the well-received ‘96 United Center convention, at which President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were re-nominated for a second term.

Without offering specifics on the infrastructure costs that will be required to host this time around, Lightfoot said a lot of the work was already done” under former Mayor Richard M. Daley in preparation for 1996’s convention.

This convention promises to put the city under its biggest national spotlight since hosting the 2012 NATO summit — while drawing similar levels of protests and heightened security concerns.

“We’re going to be working hand-in-glove as we always do with our federal partners, with the Secret Service, with the FBI and others to make sure that the convention sites themselves are incredibly secure,” Lightfoot said.

“We’re going to collaborate and work with all of the entities that are available to us to ensure a very healthy, strong, vibrant city,” Johnson added.

While the city is expected to seek federal grants to help cover those massive security costs, Pritzker and other Illinois boosters have pledged that the DNC won’t end up in the red.

“Chicago was a city that broke even at the Democratic National Convention in 1996. It’s been hard for conventions all over the country — Democratic and Republican — to break even,” Pritzker said.

“But here in Chicago, we have a business community, and a very giving community, that wants to stand up for the best things for the city of Chicago. We’ve already received some commitments even since yesterday to make that happen.”

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