Sep 14, 2023 - News

What to watch as Democrats prepare for 2024 DNC in Chicago

hockey rink with sign over it

Branding for the Democratic National Convention is displayed on the scoreboard at the United Center in April. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

National and state Democratic leaders are in town this week to get the lay of the land ahead of the 2024 Democratic National Convention.

Why it matters: Chicago's bona fides as a convention city are strong, hosting 25 Democratic and Republican conventions over the last 100-plus years. But it'll be a first for Gov. JB Pritzker and Mayor Brandon Johnson's administrations, which face a host of new issues to make sure the city showcases the best it has to offer.

Driving the news: Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in Chicago on Wednesday to do a big fundraising push for the re-election campaign, while other big name (and big money) Dems scoped out accommodations, transportation and entertainment for the Aug. 19-22 event.

Here are a few things Pritzker, Johnson and other Dem leaders should focus on in the meantime.

1. The money

Context: The proposed price tag for this year's convention is nearly $90 million, the Tribune reported, and part of Chicago's role as host city is to provide police and other public safety measures at no cost to the DNC, per the Sun-Times.

  • This means the city will have to foot the bill for any overtime pay for police, fire and OEMC staff, but officials said the cost will be in line with what the city shells out for other major events.
  • Illinois' congressional delegation also asked the feds to chip in $75 million for security, up from $50 million in past conventions.

Also, former Mayor Lori Lightfoot signed an agreement for a $30 million credit line from Amalgamated Bank.

Meanwhile, Johnson's office said Wednesday that the city is facing a $538 million budget gap in 2024 and expects the cost of new migrant arrivals to increase in the coming year.

Between the lines: Having a billionaire governor is allaying fears that the bill won't be paid, especially with heavy hitters like Michael Sacks leading the host committee.

2. The transportation

Context: If city leaders want conventioneers to take public transit, they had better make sure CTA service is smooth, trains are clean and riders feel safe.

What's happening: The shiny, new $80 million Damen Green Line station is expected to open next spring and will be the primary stop for the United Center, a straight shot from the Green Line station at McCormick Place.

3. The after-parties

Context: The real action and drama take place off the convention floor, where deals are made and reporters camp out to get their scoops.

What's happening: DNC committee members say they want to highlight all of Chicago, including the West and South sides, particularly minority-owned restaurants and bars.

  • The convention committee hosted an event this week at Bronzeville Winery, but it will be interesting to see whether organizers look to places farther west than Fulton Market and farther south than Hyde Park.

4. The power players

Context: There's a changing of the guard for Illinois' Democrats now that former House Speaker and party leader Michael Madigan is officially out of politics and Illinois Dems are looking to fill his shoes.

Meanwhile, Pritzker's name has been circulated on the national stage, but he denies he's eyeing the White House. He will certainly use the DNC to demonstrate how he's made Illinois "the heartland of democracy" for the state's strong stance on reproductive rights, civil rights and criminal justice reform.

Yes, but: He's already governor and has very deep pockets. Who else will step up and make a name for themselves at the DNC?

5. The spotlight

Context: As Morgan Elise Johnson from The Triibe points out, national news media sometimes does Chicago dirty, and we don't like it.

What we're watching: TV broadcasts that only show vacant lots in the city's disinvested neighborhoods without adding any context, or reporters who use incorrect hyperbole like, "Chicago is the most dangerous city."

Advice: If you're trying to truly capture our city and provide an accurate portrait but don't understand the nuances, just ask us.


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