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Southeast Wisconsin communities could see economic boost from DNC in Chicago

DNC in Chicago to be held one month after RNC in Milwaukee

Tribune Tower
In this Monday, May 1, 2017 photo, Chicago’s landmark building, Tribune Tower, is seen in downtown Chicago. Kiichiro Sato/AP Photo

The announcement this week that Chicago will host the 2024 Democratic National Convention has communities across southeast Wisconsin hopeful they’ll see an economic boost from dueling party conventions next summer.

Last August, the Republican National Committee announced they will hold their Republican National Convention will be held in Milwaukee in July 2024. Democrats will now hold their convention a month later and 90 miles to the south.

Milwaukee’s selection by the RNC was seen as part of a strategy to take back Wisconsin after Democratic President Joe Biden narrowly defeated Republican Donald Trump in the state, that victory a key step in Biden’s 2020 win.

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The Chicago selection is another indication of the important role Midwest states will play in the 2024 presidential election. Local tourism officials are hopeful the DNC will bring visitors and added economic activity to Wisconsin.

Spotlight on the region

Republican National Convention announcement
At a press conference in Chicago, the Republican National Committee announced its 2024 convention will be held in Milwaukee. Evan Casey/WPR

Milwaukee is already expected to see an estimated 50,000 visitors and $200 million in economic impact from the RNC, which will be held July 15-18, 2024 at Fiserv Forum. Claire Koenig, communications director for Visit Milwaukee, said the city’s tourism bureau was thrilled to hear that Chicago will be the host site for the DNC.

“Because of those political conventions, that means there’s going to be a lot of spotlights on the region,” Koenig said.

The DNC will be held at the United Center on Aug. 19-24, 2024. Koenig thinks Milwaukee could see some visitors on the weekends before and after that convention. Some convention goers could also take a “bleisure” trip to the city with their families, a term used to define a trip that combines business and leisure.

“That’s where those weekends really could work to benefit Milwaukee,” she said.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said he’s excited about the choice.

“With the Republicans selecting Milwaukee and Democrats choosing Chicago, it is clear the Midwest is front-and-center this Presidential election cycle,” Johnson said in a statement. “I’m happy for Chicago, and I will certainly extend an invitation to Democratic convention goers to come on up to Milwaukee.”

Kenosha County is just 60 miles from Chicago, while Racine County is about 80 miles away. Cari Greving, the tourism director for Racine County, also said she was excited when she heard the announcement on Tuesday.

“We’re literally the meat in the sandwich now,” Grieving said. “Racine is smack dab in the middle of that (RNC and DNC), so we’re hoping that we’ll be able to get benefits from both events.”

“Whether people are here solely for the business purpose of it, or if they’re also here and they can spend a little time exploring the area, we will take it,” Greving said.

A security guard stands near the site of the DNC in Milwaukee on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. Angela Major/WPR

The 2020 DNC was held in Milwaukee, but that event transitioned to a remote event after the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to shut down any in-person events. This is the fourth time the DNC will be in Chicago, a stronghold for Democrats.

Even with the added exposure to the region, Bill Elliot, the president of the Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association, said it’s unlikely that any DNC visitors stay in hotels in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin’s lodging properties are not likely to see any direct overnight stays from the 2024 DNC, and that’s really due to the inventory of hotels that are available in Chicago and the Chicago suburbs,” he said.

But for the RNC, Elliot said it’s likely that hotels as far as Kenosha, Madison and Sheboygan are used for that event.

“For hotels it’s not just selling those nights, but it’s showing that we can handle these great conventions, these big conventions,” Elliot said.

Fox News to host RNC debate in August

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel speaking at a committee meating
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel speaks at the committee’s winter meeting in Dana Point, Calif., Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. Jae C. Hong/AP Photo

Meanwhile, Fox News announced Wednesday it will host the first Republican presidential primary debate this August in Milwaukee. Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s group Young America’s Foundation will also partner with the streaming service Rumble for the event.

“The next President of the United States will be on our debate stage, and we look forward to hosting a fair and transparent platform for our great candidates to debate and share our winning Republican message with voters across the country,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

The exact dates and location for the event have not been released yet, but the RNC will hold a summer meeting around the time of the debate.

In 2015, the first RNC debate ahead of the 2016 presidential election was viewed by 24 million people, making it the most watched live broadcast for a non-sporting event in cable television history. That event took place in Cleveland, which played host for the 2016 RNC.

So far, former president Donald Trump, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson have declared they’re running for president.

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