City of Milwaukee officially submits bid to host Republican National Convention

Application touts city's preparation for 2020 Democratic National Convention

a man in a mask approaches a toppled banner
A man picks up a banner for the DNC that blew over Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Milwaukee. Angela Major/WPR

The city of Milwaukee has officially submitted its bid to host the Republican National Convention in 2024.

The more than 200-page application highlights the city’s access to Lake Michigan, entertainment venues, festivals, the culinary scene, the Milwaukee Bucks’ championship, Fiserv Forum and more.

The RNC isn’t the only political convention with its eyes on Milwaukee. The Democratic National Committee invited Milwaukee to reapply for its 2024 convention.

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The city hosted the 2020 DNC, but because of the pandemic, the event was largely virtual, depriving the city of hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenue. The 2024 DNC could be a do-over, and the city has said it plans to apply.

Both conventions would coincide with the opening of an expanded Wisconsin Center, providing an opportunity for Milwaukee to show off the new facility while attracting even greater revenue.

Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO of Visit Milwaukee, said Milwaukee will likely find out in the first quarter of 2022 if it is one of three cities chosen to get a site visit by the Republican National Committee. At that time, Milwaukee will begin fundraising for the convention, Williams-Smith said, adding that there are a “million” reasons why Milwaukee should be chosen by the committee.

“We’re the city of festivals, we’re a great place on an amazing lake, we have an amazing hotel package, we have great places to host parties, and we all know that a convention is filled with parties,” Williams-Smith said.

Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, has said he would be as enthusiastic to support the RNC as he was to support the DNC.

In his letter to the committee, Barrett called Wisconsin a “purple state” that reflects the nation and will be an important player in determining the country’s political future. He also touted previous work done to get ready for the 2020 DNC.

“Milwaukee is quite familiar with the work necessary to prepare for a national political convention,” Barrett said. “Our robust business and strong hospitality communities are ready with facilities and hotel accommodations to fully meet the convention’s needs.”

It’s likely Barrett would no longer be mayor if either convention were to choose the city. He’s waiting for confirmation to become ambassador to Luxembourg.

Barrett is up for an important committee vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday for his nomination. If approved, a full vote could be taken by the U.S. Senate by the end of the year.

So far, seven people have filed papers with the Milwaukee Elections Commission to run for Barrett’s seat.