Milwaukee gets another chance to host political convention after DNC dud in 2020
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee has been selected to host the Republican National Convention in 2024. If it seems like we've been down this road before, we have. The 2020 Democratic National Convention was just a fraction of what the city hoped it would be due to the pandemic.
On March 11, 2019, the Democratic National Committee announced Milwaukee as host city for the 2020 DNC. Milwaukee beat Miami and Houston for the convention.
The National Media said Democrats chose Milwaukee in part because former President Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2016.
Milwaukee is criticized for a lack of hotel rooms. Visit Milwaukee estimates the greater Milwaukee area has nearly 18,000 hotels rooms for some 50,000 DNC visitors. Nearly half of the delegations planned to stay in Illinois during the four-day convention. Airbnb rooms averaged more than $1,000 a night.
Undaunted, city and state leaders got to work in late February 2020, and the DNC received a logo. The Summerfest grounds were to be used as a welcome party site for the delegates. The legislature extended bar hours to close at 4 a.m. during the convention. Public safety plans were worked out and officers from all over the country were called to help.
Then, all of the well-laid out plans were thrown out as COVID-19 shut down the country.
At first, Democratic leadership remained hopeful that a convention would happen.
"I don't think the Democratic convention is in jeopardy. We are in contact with both federal, state, and local authorities on a daily basis, a regular basis. I met with some folks today and I'm confident we can put that on," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.
Soon, reality set in. Three months before the big week, eventual presidential nominee Joe Biden admitted it was hard to imagine a "normal convention."
"It's hard to envision that, again we should listen to the scientists," said Biden.
The DNC started to lay off workers and the convention was delayed until August. Then, on May 11, Democrats asked convention organizers to design a virtual convention.
Local businesses that invested based on the idea that the city would be full of delegates had to scale back plans.
"Economically this is another blow to our industry and even tourism and the hotels," said Wisconsin Restaurant Association CEO Kristine Hillmer.
Over the summer, volunteers were told they wouldn't be needed, police departments from across the state and country withdrew their assistance, and the final blow came in early August that killed the convention.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden announced he would not accept the nomination in Milwaukee.
Fifty-thousands visitors and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact was gone.
The convention was supposed to shine a national spotlight on Milwaukee. Instead, Biden gave his acceptance speech from Wilmington, Delaware as local Democrats watched from the Milwaukee County Zoo's parking lot.
"It's not even bittersweet, it is in some ways heartbreaking, because we wanted to show off our little big city to the world," said DNC Representative Khary Penebaker.
Visit Milwaukee estimated the economic impact for the city at $3 million -- a far cry from the money that would have poured in from a normal convention.