Barrett formally accepts DNC’s invite to compete for 2024 convention

Milwaukee may also bid on RNC

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett kicked off convention proceedings on Tuesday night. Photo credit: Alex Hanel/DNCC

Last updated on September 30th, 2021 at 01:52 pm

Mayor Tom Barrett is officially throwing Milwaukee’s hat into the ring for the 2024 Democratic National Convention.

Barrett announced Tuesday that he has formally accepted the Democratic National Committee’s invitation to compete in the site selection process for its next presidential nominating convention.

In a letter sent to DNC Chair Jaime Harrison, Barrett said Milwaukee is “ready with facilities and hotel accommodations to fully meet the convention’s needs,” touting the $420 million expansion of the Wisconsin Center, which is set for completion in 2024. 

Barrett pointed out that the city is already familiar with the bidding process and criteria, having hosted what became a mostly-virtual 2020 DNC due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Having earned the designation as host city for the 2020 convention, Milwaukee is likely to receive serious consideration this time around, the Mayor’s office said in a news release. 

Milwaukee is one of about 20 cities that were invited in late July to consider bidding on the 2024 event, which would bring an estimated $200 million in economic impact and 50,000 visitors to the region. That was the kind of financial and tourism boost that Milwaukee missed out on last year when the 2020 DNC was scaled back to a mostly-virtual event. Because of that, some feel Milwaukee deserves another opportunity to host the DNC.

“While interrupted by a pandemic, Milwaukee was ready put on a great event. And, we are set to do it again,” Barrett wrote in his letter to the DNC.

After answering the initial invitation, interested cities will be asked to respond to a formal request for proposal process that is expected to begin later this year.

To seek the 2024 DNC, Milwaukee leaders would once again have to come together to organize and raise millions of dollars to host the massive event. Since the DNC’s initial invitation, Barrett has been in touch with VISIT Milwaukee, business groups, and large venues that might be involved, his office said. 

Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, called the discussions with the mayor so far “very preliminary without a lot of detail behind them.”

Because it’s so early in the process, Sheehy said he has not yet called on the base of local corporate donors who were instrumental in raising the funds needed to win the bid and host the event.

“The question is are they willing to jump back in to that pool this quickly because there is a huge benefit to having the DNC, but there is an opportunity cost to taking those philanthropic corporate dollars and spending them in this way verses spending them in some other way in the community,” he said, adding the fund-raising process would need to start by early next year.

“We’ve proven that Milwaukee is capable of putting together a proposal and a winning bid. The pandemic took the bloom off of the DNC event that Milwaukee, but the point is, we’ve proven Milwaukee can be successful in a bid,” Sheehy said.

RNC possibility

Sheehy said he has heard that Milwaukee also has received an RFP from the Republican National Committee for its 2024 convention.

Speaking at the MMAC’s Focus on the Future event last week, Omar Shaikh (owner of Carnevor steakhouse in downtown Milwaukee and developer of the 3rd Street Market Hall) said VISIT Milwaukee president and CEO Peggy Williams-Smith told him that “we are going to compete for the RNC.” Following Shaikh’s remarks, Williams-Smith declined to comment at the event and couldn’t be reached for comment today.

Jeff Fleming, director of communications for the Mayor’s Office, confirmed Tuesday that the RNC has invited Milwaukee to bid on the convention. He said the office expects to respond soon.

Bringing either the DNC or RNC conventions to Milwaukee requires a leader to champion the effort, “someone that is connected into the party and fund raising apparatus that goes along with it,” Sheehy said.

Alex Lasry, senior vice president of the Milwaukee Bucks, played that role for the 2020 DNC, but it’s unclear exactly how involved he can be this time amid his ongoing campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Asked about his plans to be involved with a 2024 DNC bid, Lasry responded in an email, “I’ll do anything I can do to not only help bring the 2024 DNC Convention, but to help bring any event to Wisconsin.”

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Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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