Framed by the city’s skyline on a picture-perfect spring day, Chicago Democrats celebrated winning the 2024 Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, vowing the pick would vault President Joe Biden into a second term.
Supporters of the convention coming to Chicago say it will infuse between $150 million and $200 million into Illinois’ economy and boost the city’s flagging tourism and hospitality industries, which have been slow to recover amid the lingering COVID-19 pandemic. It will be the first presidential nominating convention to be held in Chicago since 1996, when former President Bill Clinton was nominated for a second term, which he won.
The victory was a coup for Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who urged national Democrats to pick Chicago, even though Illinois has not been a true swing state for more than a generation. Along with U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Pritzker pitched Chicago — a deeply blue city in the center of an increasingly red Midwest — as the best way for Democrats to reach voters in nearby swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin, both of which proved crucial in Biden’s victory over former President Donald Trump in 2020.
Chicago defeated Atlanta, Houston and New York to win the right to host the convention.
“We are an ideal backdrop here in Chicago for President Biden and Vice President Harris to tell their own stories to the American people,” Pritzker said. “We are a reflection of the nation and the policies that lift up working families. 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.”
Trump, who was indicted last week in New York, has already announced a bid for a second term. The 2024 Republican National Convention will take place in Milwaukee.
Biden told reporters this week he expects to announce his bid for a second term in the coming months.
Pritzker, a billionaire entrepreneur who also has been a major donor to Democratic candidates and causes nationally, promised national Democratic leaders that the convention would not leave the party in debt, as other gatherings have in recent years.
Pritzker did not directly answer a question about whether he personally had guaranteed to underwrite the convention after the celebration at the Shedd Aquarium.
“What I guaranteed is that I and the committee that we put together will work extraordinarily hard to raise all of the dollars necessary,” Pritzker said.
The convention will take place at the United Center, with some events at McCormick Place and Wintrust Arena, officials said. The home of the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks also hosted to the 1996 Democratic National Convention, which jump-started efforts to revitalize the West Loop, an area that is now home to trendy restaurants, hip shops and hundreds of new apartments and condominiums.
After the 2020 convention was largely virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2024 convention will be the first chance for Biden and Harris to celebrate and tell the story of why they deserve a second term in office.
The celebration served as a capstone for Lightfoot, who helped put together Chicago’s winning bid for the convention only to lose her bid for a second term as mayor, relegating her to the sidelines when the national political spotlight shines on Chicago from Aug. 19-22, 2024.
After congratulating Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson on his victory in the runoff against former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas on April 4, Duckworth said she urged Johnson to tell Biden the 2024 convention belonged in Chicago.
That prompted Johnson to liken himself to a perhaps lesser-known member of the Chicago Bulls’ championship teams in the 1990s, who was called on to take the game-winning shot when Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen were boxed out.
“I’m obviously Steve Kerr,” Johnson said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “So I took the final shot, here we are Chicago.”