CHICAGO — President Joe Biden has chosen Chicago as the site of the 2024 Democratic National Convention, staking a claim in the Midwest as Republicans plan to host theirs in Milwaukee.
“Chicago is a great choice to host the 2024 Democratic National Convention,” Biden said in a statement Tuesday. “Democrats will gather to showcase our historic progress including building an economy from the middle out and bottom up, not from the top down.”
En route to Air Force One before an overseas trip, Biden called Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday to deliver the news. A jubilant Pritzker joked in an interview that he told Biden that Chicago was “your kind of town.”
The Chicago bid included an appeal to the White House that Illinois represented the Midwest and was a part of the so-called blue wall of states that were critical to Biden’s 2020 electoral victory. But the pitch around Illinois — a state where abortion is legal, assault-style weapons are banned and organized labor enjoys strong protections — specifically revolved around pure Democratic ideals, Pritzker said.
"Illinois and Chicago really represent the values of the Democratic Party," Pritzker said. "This is a party that doesn’t compromise when standing up for a woman’s right to choose and reproductive rights. We’re a state that has passed an assault weapons ban and that ensures collective bargaining rights. And these are core values of what it is to be a Democrat."
Inside the Democratic National Committee, Chicago was viewed as the favorite because of the appeal of its venue — the United Center — and its stock of hotel suites and restaurants, as well as the political and financial force of Pritzker. The convention is expected to cost upward of $90 million, a source with knowledge of the deliberations said.
Landing the convention was the culmination of a lobbying effort by city, state and congressional officials, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and Pritzker, who made multiple personal appeals to Biden.
Biden was visiting Illinois about a year ago when Pritzker joined him in the president's car, and as soon as Pritzker stepped inside he made his pitch.
The pitch later became a running joke between Pritzker and Biden, with the famously competitive Pritzker saying he brought it up every time he saw the president.
"I'd say: 'Hey, have you thought about Chicago for your convention? You know, the best city in the country to have a convention is in Chicago,'" Pritzker said he would often tell Biden.
The City of Big Shoulders last hosted a convention in 1996, when President Bill Clinton ran for re-election and Democrats helped make the “Macarena” dance famous.
“The last Chicago convention was a huge success. It makes sense to put the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 2024. Every facility where it will be located will be a union facility. Every hotel is a union hotel,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said Tuesday. “We are a state that guaranteed in multiple ways the right of women to have reproductive choice. And in fact, we are a beacon of hope and security for women’s health care from all of the states around us.”
Chicago was first viewed as a leading contender more than a year ago. But the DNC has a more troubled history in the city, when police brutality was on display at the 1968 Democratic convention. Thousands of Vietnam War protesters descended on the city in a wide-scale rebuke of the war. Police tear-gassed, dragged and beat demonstrators — images that were captured on television. That moment gave birth to a chant, “the whole world is watching,” signifying activism in the face of abusive authority.
The decision to choose Chicago came after deliberations and site visits by Democratic National Committee members. In recent months, the committee viewed Chicago and Atlanta as the front-runners, with New York City remaining in the mix.
Each city made aggressive pitches to committee members, with Chicago and Atlanta leaning on arguments that their regions — the Midwest and the South, respectively — will play pivotal roles in electing the next president. Organized labor made a forceful argument for New York City.
"While we are of course disappointed in this decision, I just spoke with Gov. Pritzker to extend our congratulations to the city of Chicago for landing the 2024 Democratic National Convention,” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said in a statement. “We are confident in their ability to provide President Biden with a world-class nominating convention. Atlanta fought hard and left everything out on the field. We welcomed the opportunity to showcase not only our world-class facilities but to highlight the civic culture that makes Atlanta truly special: This is the city that represents the future of the Democratic Party.”
The election last week of a new mayor — Brandon Johnson, 46, a Black progressive member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, who won despite being outspent in the race — further fueled momentum behind Chicago's bid.
Johnson last week also personally pitched Biden on hosting the convention, as Pritzker had done in a previous conversation.
“I do think that this changes the Chicago bid. You’ve just had this pro-teacher, pro-worker, pro-union person elected as mayor of Chicago,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said last week. “It sends a powerful message.”
Ultimately, however, the decision was up to Biden. The White House told the Democratic National Committee of its wishes.
Biden has had a special place in his heart for Georgia, a red state that flipped blue in 2020, helping usher him into the White House.
“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,” a band of Southern officials wrote as part of their argument to hold the convention in Atlanta.