‘We put up a good fight’ | Democrats spurn Atlanta for 2024 DNC in Chicago

Democrats chose the Windy City as the site of their convention next year
FILE - President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party have chosen Chicago as the site of the 2024...
FILE - President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party have chosen Chicago as the site of the 2024 DNC. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)(Kiichiro Sato | AP)
Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 10:23 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 11, 2023 at 2:35 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Despite paying recent lip service to Atlanta’s and the South’s importance in their ballot box success, President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced Tuesday morning that Chicago - instead of Atlanta - will host the 2024 Democratic National Convention.

The convention will be held at the massive United Center from August 19 to 22.

“The DNC is returning to the Midwest, a critical Democratic stronghold: Illinois along with Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota – part of the ‘blue wall’ – were crucial to the 2020 victory of President Biden and Vice President Harris and to Democrats’ success in the 2022 midterm elections,” the committee said.

Mark Rountree with Landmark Communications says it’s a mistake for Democrats. holding the convention in atlanta would activate tens of thousands of volunteers, prepared to campaign hard for their candidate.

“It seems to be a political error in my opinion. The benefit of picking Atlanta is you are picking the state that is largely the most important swing state in the country. They chose a state they’re already going to win in 2024, nobody puts Illinois on a list of possible swing states,” said Rountree.

Professor Tom Smith with Emory University’s Goizueta Business School said Chicago makes sense for logistical reasons- lots of hotels and an extensive transportation system that Atlanta lacks.

“I mean, I know we have Marta, I know we have a bus system, but I also know that it can be a little bit cumbersome,” said Smith.

The Windy City had been making a late push to host the convention after Brandon Johnson won a runoff last week to become the city’s new mayor in a nationally watched municipal election. Controversial Mayor Lori Lightfoot failed to make the runoff.

Chicago last hosted the Democratic convention in 1996, when then-President Bill Clinton was nominated for a second term. The 1968 convention was also held in Chicago when violence broke out in protests outside the International Amphitheatre as Vice President Hubert Humphrey was nominated inside.

Last summer, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams hosted top DNC officials after Dickens announced the city would submit a formal bid to host the nominating convention.

“My team and I, we put up a good fight,” Dickens said after the announcement Tuesday morning. “We worked hard. Congratulations to Chicago. We respect the decision of the White House [and] President Biden.”

Dickens said he received a call from Democratic leaders after the decision was made. “And they said Atlanta was top two, out of all the nation,” he said. “And we were hoping we’d be top 1. But they said, next time, maybe. So we’re hoping that we continue to spread the presidential map south, so that everybody knows that Georgia is in play for the Democrats, and to continue that the nation should keep an eye on Atlanta.”

“Chicago is a great choice to host the 2024 Democratic National Convention,” said Biden. “Democrats will gather to showcase our historic progress including building an economy from the middle out and bottom up, not from the top down. From repairing our roads and bridges, to unleashing a manufacturing boom, and creating over 12.5 million new good-paying jobs, we’ve already delivered so much for hard working Americans – now it’s time to finish the job.”

“I’m disappointed by President Biden’s decision to host the 2024 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and not Atlanta,” said Kendra Cotton, CEO of the New Georgia Project Action Fund. “In 2020 and again in 2022, Georgia proved our status as a key battleground state, and any candidate, campaign, or political party should keep that in mind as we head into next year.”

Cotton reminded Democrats that “President Biden won the White House and Senators [Raphael] Warnock and [Jon] Ossoff earned their first terms in Washington because Georgia voters - specifically, Black, brown, and young Georgia voters -turned out in unprecedented numbers. Hosting the Democratic National Convention here in Atlanta would have demonstrated to the voters who were integral to his election that the president and his party understand the power of Georgia voters to decide the outcomes of elections in our state, especially at the federal level.”

In late January, more than 60 Democratic mayors, state lawmakers, governors, congressmen and senators sent a letter to Biden, urging him to select Atlanta.

“Democratic turnout in the state of Georgia is the single greatest reason that you and Vice President Harris are in the White House today instead of Donald Trump,” the officials wrote in the January letter, which was also sent to Harrison.

In March, several Atlanta civil rights leaders also penned a letter to Biden, advocating Atlanta as the convention site.

“As you make final preparations for your reelection campaign, we write to urge you to make one decision that will be immeasurably beneficial to the nearly 42 million Black Americans who you represent as president of the United States of America: Bring your nominating convention to the city of Atlanta, Georgia in 2024,” the March 3, 2023, letter said.

“By choosing Atlanta you can ensure that the millions spent on your nominating contest flow to Black businesses and you can send a message that when given the opportunity you and your party will literally put your money where your mouth is.”

In late March, several prominent Midwest political leaders - including four governors, six U.S. senators and 14 congressional representatives - went to bat for the Windy City in an appeal to Biden.

“The Midwest is a traditional Democratic stronghold, part of the storied ‘blue wall’ that has been key to Democratic presidential victories for decades,” the letter from the officials said. “When the future of the country hangs in the balance, we cannot afford to overlook the Midwest.”

The letter said Democrats should not hold their convention “in a state whose policies fundamentally oppose Democratic principles,” an apparent jab at Georgia, where every statewide constitutional office is held by a Republican.

That includes Gov. Brian Kemp, who just cruised to a re-election victory over Stacey Abrams, once considered a rising star in Democratic national politics.

“The Midwest has been a bastion of strong labor unions for generations, an oasis for reproductive choice, and a stronghold of civil rights protections,” the letter said. “Convening in an anti-labor, pro-gun, anti-choice, vote-suppressing state would be akin to talking the talk without walking the walk. Bringing the convention to the Midwest means reinforcing the party’s commitment not only to the nation’s industrial heartland, but also to those voters who have repeatedly propelled Democrats to victory.”

Also in March, the Atlanta City Council approved a resolution sponsored by council member Marci Collier Overstreet that would fast-track the city’s ability to collect excess hotel and motel tax revenues and conduct any other negotiations and arrangements should the city be chosen.

The last - and, so far, only - time Atlanta has hosted a political convention was 1988, when Democrats nominated former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis to face Vice President George H.W. Bush. Dukakis had just won a hotly contested nomination battle over Jesse Jackson, while Bush was seeking to take advantage of then-President Ronald Reagan’s vast national popularity.

Bush trounced Dukakis that November, carrying 40 states and winning 426 electoral votes. That was also the last election a presidential candidate won more than 400 electoral votes.

The 1988 Democratic convention was held at the Omni, now the site of State Farm Arena. Gov. Joe Frank Harris led Georgia’s delegation, which included former President Jimmy Carter and then-U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn.

On July 20, then-Arkansas Gov. Clinton formally nominated Dukakis. Clinton would win his party’s White House nomination four years later and eventually unseat President Bush, becoming the first Democrat to occupy the White House since Carter.

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