Democrats Choose Milwaukee As Host City for 2020 Convention

March 11, 2019 by Dan McCue
The selection of the city is part of a strategy by Democrats to put more emphasis on once-dependable regions in the upper Midwest that 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton neglected in her presidential run. (Dreamstime/TNS)

The Democratic National Committee chose Milwaukee, Wisconsin Monday to host its presidential nominating convention in 2020, meaning the party will select its nominee in the heart of the region that sent Donald Trump to the White House two-and-a-half years ago.

Though the rust belt location is fraught with symbolism, Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement that the party chose Milwaukee for a number of reasons including the fact it is the Democratic stronghold of its state.

The metro won out over two other finalists, Houston and Miami, both of which have extensive experience playing host to large-scale events, but which also came with ancillary issues they ultimately could not overcome.

The Democratic National Convention will be held on July 13-16, 2020, in the newly built Fiserv Forum, a 17,500-seat arena that’s home to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.

It will mark the first time the party has held a national convention in the Midwest outside of Chicago since 1916.  

“This is a great day for the city of Milwaukee and for the state of Wisconsin,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.  “Milwaukee is a first-class city, and we are ready to showcase Milwaukee on one of the largest stages in the world.”

A famously working-class city, Milwaukee has gone from being synonymous with manufacturing and breweries — it was once home to four of the largest beer producers in the world — to being the headquarters of six Fortune 500 companies, including Harley-Davidson.

Wisconsin itself has also been transformed in the eyes of Democrats.

In 2016, after twice supporting President Barack Obama, Wisconsin swung to Donald Trump, handing him a victory of about 23,000 votes out of almost 3 million cast in the state.

But the state was also the site of some of the Democrats’ biggest wins in 2018, including the election of Governor Tony Evers, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, and Attorney General Josh Kaul, and the reelection of Senator Tammy Baldwin.

Wisconsin Democrats pointed to those midterm election results as they lobbied Perez and DNC officials. The message struck a chord.

“This choice is a statement of our values, and I’m thrilled Milwaukee will host the 2020 Democratic National Convention,” Perez said. “The Democratic Party is the party of working people, and Milwaukee is a city of working people. We saw in this last election what we can accomplish when we come together, invest, and fight for working people, and that was proven right here in Wisconsin.”

The immediate question is how Milwaukee will deal with the demands a major political convention places on the host city’s existing infrastructure.

Some of those concerns were resolved with the opening of the new basketball arena. Milwaukee organizers also pitched their city as a resurgent downtown beyond just the arena and convention facilities, and boasted of hotel capacity that has now reached 17,000.

But prior to Monday’s announcement some Democrats still had concerns about whether Milwaukee has enough ancillary venues to service the 57 state and territorial delegations now poised to descend on the city, and the evening events that are staples for mixing with lobbyists and donors.

According to the Democratic National Committee, a technical advisory group spent six months traveling to the three finalist cities to assess what they had to offer.

In the end, the group decided Milwaukee not only could handle tens-of-thousands of delegates, media and others who descend on a city during a national political convention, but also did not come with the challenges the other finalist cities had.

Miami, for instance, is home to several luxury hotels, but most are in Miami Beach, across a series of bridges from downtown, where the city’s arena is located, raising the prospect of delegates being caught in continuous traffic jams.

Houston had few, if any, logistics challenges, but it came with political issues that it just could not overcome.

The city’s organizing committee struggled to come up with the necessary financing without resorting to the oil and gas industry, something that would have been problematic for a party that has committed itself to combating climate change.

At the same time, Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, has been embroiled in a prolonged fight with the International Association of Fire Fighters over firefighter pay.

Republicans are set to gather in Charlotte, the largest city in battleground North Carolina, on Aug. 24-27, 2020.

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