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Democratic National Convention Postponed Amid COVID-19 Concerns

As Previously Planned, Event Would Have Had $200M Economic Impact For Wisconsin

downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin Avenue
Gretchen Brown/WPR

After more than a year of preparation that brought excitement and national spotlight to Milwaukee, the Democratic National Convention has been postponed due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers for the event that was planned for July 13 to 16 in the city made the announcement Thursday morning after weeks of speculation, according to a news release from the host committee.

The convention will instead be held the week of Aug. 17, but for how many days is unknown.

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Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Joe Solmonese made the following statement in the release:

“In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention. During this critical time, when the scope and scale of the pandemic and its impact remain unknown, we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of health care professionals and emergency responders. I have always believed that American innovation and ingenuity shine brightest during our darkest days, and for that reason, I’m confident our convention planning team and our partners will find a way to deliver a convention in Milwaukee this summer that places our Democratic nominee on the path to victory in November.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said finding out the convention would be postponed, instead of canceled, was “really good news, at a time when everyone needed to hear really good news.”

“How may visitors, we don’t know, how many days to the convention, we don’t know,” Barrett said during a Thursday afternoon teleconference. “But I think what really allowed this to happen was a recognition by the Democratic National Committee and Tom Perez and Joe Somonese in particular to remain committed to Wisconsin, to remain committed to Milwaukee.”

Barrett said moving the date would present some challenges, but he is confident the city’s hotels and businesses will be happy to accommodate the convention.

Barrett said for the last month and a half city staff have put DNC planning on hold to deal with the public health crisis of COVID-19 and the economic challenges that have followed. He said that will continue to be the case.

Hopefully, and I say this with a great deal of hope, that by mid-August, this will serve as a shot in the arm, for our local businesses, so they can expect to have visitors here,” Barrett said.

For the last several weeks, the Democratic National Convention Committee has been working on contingency plans for the convention. On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden told MSNBC’s Brian Williams he expected the convention would be postponed.

Previous plans for the convention were expected to bring 50,000 people to the city and surrounding areas, and visitors would have included delegates, national media and other visitors.

The event, as originally scheduled, was expected to have a $200 million economic impact in Wisconsin. It would have brought business to dozens of downtown Milwaukee hotels, restaurants and bars. Instead, restaurants and bars have been closed since March 17, and many hotels have temporarily closed.

The summer of 2020 was shaping up to be a memorable one for Milwaukee and surrounding areas with the Democratic National Convention, the Milwaukee Bucks headed toward a national championship and the 2020 Ryder Cup scheduled in September at Whistling Straits Golf Course in Kohler, north of Milwaukee.

The NBA canceled its season March 11. Despite reports that the Ryder Cup will be canceled, organizers say they are still planning the event.

Democrats chose Milwaukee to host their 2020 national convention last March. The city was chosen over Miami and Houston. It is the first time in more than a century that Democrats will gather in a Midwest city other than Chicago to nominate their presidential candidate.

Wisconsin is seen as a swing state in the presidential campaign.

Before 2016, Republicans hadn’t won Wisconsin since 1984. President Donald Trump added Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania to upset Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who didn’t campaign in Wisconsin in 2016 during the general election.

“My North Star every decision I’ve made as DNC Chair is winning,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said last year when he chose Milwaukee. “We’ve invested unprecedented amounts of money in the midterms so we could win.”

Milwaukee is one the smallest cities to host a presidential convention.

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