CHICAGO — Democrats are eyeing Chicago as a city of interest to host the party’s 2024 convention and the mayor, the governor and a key U.S. senator are coordinating on a plan to make it happen, the firm helping with a potential bid confirmed to NBC News on Wednesday.
While the discussions are early and informal, some national Democrats already see the Midwestern city as an appealing contender, in part for its heartland geography — touching key swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan — but also because of the comfort that would come with holding a marquee political event in a tried-and-true blue state, a source who has taken part in early discussions with national Democrats said.
“As the DNC begins planning for the 2024 Democratic National Convention, Chicago is considering a bid to be host city,” Tarrah Cooper Wright, CEO of Rise Strategy Group, who is helping assist with a potential Chicago bid, said in a statement to NBC News. The firm was hired by a nascent committee supporting a Chicago convention bid made up of elected officials, businesses, civic and labor leaders, she said.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Sen. Tammy Duckworth — who is also a DNC vice chair — have been coordinating on the possible bid along with the state’s Democratic Party Chair, Rep. Robin Kelly, and Sen. Dick Durbin, Cooper Wright said.
Republicans have already narrowed their potential 2024 host cities to two — Milwaukee and Nashville — but Democrats remain in the earlier stages of planning. The party remains in the thick of midterm strategy and are still ferreting out an early state primary election schedule. The Democratic National Committee has not yet launched a formal request for proposals to host the convention, but Las Vegas is another city that is a potential strong contender, a source involved in the bidding process said.
Las Vegas has a similar appeal in its ability to host large-scale events. In that case, Nevada is a swing state and is also a top contender to supplant Iowa in kicking off Democrats’ presidential primary contest.
Last summer, the DNC put out a letter of interest to numerous cities inviting applications, including Chicago.
In early talks about the convention, Democrats have informally discussed whether to continue with a traditional one-city host or add satellite cities and project key speeches, which would take a page from the successful 2020 virtual convention.
For Chicago, the pluses include a hotel infrastructure that can easily accommodate a large event — something that was a sticking point when Milwaukee hosted the 2020 convention. At that time, some of the delegates were booked in hotels out of state, near Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Because of Covid, the Milwaukee convention was significantly pared down, with much of it going virtual. President Joe Biden chose to give his nomination speech from his home state of Delaware.
One concern with Chicago, however, is crime, one of the sources involved in discussions with national Democrats said. The city had nearly 800 homicides in 2021 — the highest number in 25 years. It’s also experienced a surge in carjackings, though police say such incidents have dropped so far this year.
Cooper Wright argued that Chicago has proved able to hold other large-scale events. The city hosted the 2012 NATO summit and regularly hosts Lollapalooza and the Air & Water Show, which draws massive crowds along the shores of Lake Michigan.
Chicago last hosted a convention in 1996, when then-President Bill Clinton ran for re-election.
But it is also infamous for the police brutality on display at the 1968 Democratic convention, when 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.