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Democrats“ 2024 convention dilemma: Chicago tradition or Atlanta“s “new Georgia“


In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced presidential candidate Joe Biden to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination inside a largely empty arena in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

Biden’s 2024 race will be different, aides and Democratic party officials say. Democrats are gearing up for a live coronation of their nominee in the summer of 2024.

But where, exactly? The race to host the party convention is now down to two cities, sources say: Chicago and Atlanta.

Competition has been fierce. The 2016 convention brought tens of thousands of delegates, media and additional visitors, and more than $130 million in direct spending, to Philadelphia.

The decision, expected in the coming days and as soon as this week, is ultimately Biden’s to make, sources say, but shows the multiple power bases at work in the modern Democratic Party.

Chicago’s pull is rooted in tradition, deep-pocketed donors and union ties, while Atlanta’s appeal reflects the power of Georgia’s grassroots networks and the importance to the party of Black voters and a racially diverse electorate.

Both sides are pitching their case. Top Democratic political officials in eight Midwestern states wrote Biden last week to push for a Chicago convention. Party leaders in Southern states had already petitioned him directly for an Atlanta convention.

The White House referred questions to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which declined to comment.

Holding the convention in Chicago would put Biden in a Democratic powerhouse, where the party controls the legislature and executive branches.

Biden easily carried Illinois in 2020 and some of the state’s media markets reach nearby Wisconsin, one of the most competitive presidential battleground states in the country.

Democrats could hold the events and host guests at venues that employ union workers, a key asset for a party counting on labor organizations to bring voters to the polls in 2024.

The state’s political power is decidedly behind Biden. Governor J.B. Pritzker is not just a popular governor with a loyal following but also a fundraising powerhouse of his own, a billionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotels Corp (H.N) fortune.

Pritzker, who had been tipped as considering his own presidential run, instead recently signed on to a DNC board of political rising stars serving as spokespeople for Biden’s eventual campaign.

“The election of 2016 is a cautionary tale that the Democratic National Committee, now choosing where to hold its nominating convention in 2024, must take to heart,” Pritzker and others wrote to Biden, a reference to Democratic losses in Michigan and Wisconsin that cemented Republican former President Donald Trump’s victory.

Some Biden allies are reluctant to center the convention in a Democrat-run city which has witnessed a spike in homicides since the COVID-19 pandemic, as Republicans allege Democrats are tolerant of crime.

Biden narrowly snatched victory in Georgia in 2020, the first time a Democrat has won a presidential race there since 1992.

Democrats then won two Senate runoff elections there in 2021, delivering Biden control of the Senate and making possible a string of legislative victories, including bills on the COVID-19 pandemic, climate, semiconductors and infrastructure.

Grassroots efforts to improve voter registration and turnout by local activists like Stacey Abrams, boosted by population growth in the Atlanta area, increased Democratic voters in the state and helped forge a reputation of a “new” more multicultural, pluralistic Georgia.

Atlanta is about 50% Black, compared to Chicago’s 30%. Black voters powered Biden’s victory in the party primary and general election.

Still, the 2020 win for Biden in Georgia was his closest victory in any state, beating Trump by less than three tenths of a percentage point.

A Georgia convention would put Democrats in the middle of a sharply divided state, home to both the city of South Fulton, where more than 9 in 10 residents are Black, and Trump loyalists like U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose district voted 73% for the Republican former president in 2020.

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Voters cast their ballots during early voting in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young

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