It’s official: Milwaukee will host the 2024 Republican National Convention

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel and local host committee chair Reince Priebus sign the official bid for Milwaukee to host the 2024 RNC. Credit: TMJ4 News live stream

Last updated on December 29th, 2022 at 07:21 pm

Milwaukee will get another chance to host a national political convention when the Republican National Convention comes to town in 2024.

The Republican National Committee on Friday officially selected Milwaukee to host its next presidential nominating convention. The final vote was first announced on Twitter by RNC chair Ronna McDaniel. There was a press conference for the announcement at the JW Marriott Hotel in downtown Chicago, where members had convened this week for the RNC Summer Meeting. McDaniel and party officials were joined at the press conference by about 50 of Milwaukee’s most prominent business and civic leaders who had worked for months to help secure the bid.

“We are so excited to go to Milwaukee for our convention,” McDaniel said, addressing the media on Friday. “In the next two years, we look forward to working with the mayor and everyone in the community to make this an event that not only highlights the RNC and our nominee for 2024 but highlights the great city that Milwaukee is. We’re committed to using vendors and being part of this community in a positive way that’s going to be beneficial for everyone because everyone is going to want to come to Milwaukee after this convention.”

Friday’s announcement was to be expected following an endorsement by the RNC site selection committee last month. Milwaukee was ultimately favored over contender Nashville, whose metro council rejected a framework agreement with the RNC earlier this week, leaving Brew City as the lone frontrunner. Milwaukee’s Common Council had unanimously approved its RNC framework agreement on June 1.

Organizers expect the 2024 RNC to generate $250 million in economic impact and bring 45,000 visitors to the region, including politicians, delegates, lobbyists, dignitaries and members of the national and international. It will mark the second presidential nominating convention to take place in Milwaukee – in the span of four years. However, it’ll be the first to take place at full scale.

Of course, the Democratic Party held its national convention here in 2020, but the shift to a mostly virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic robbed Milwaukee of almost all economic impact plus the benefit of national media exposure that would have come with hosting an in-person, full-scale event. The 2020 DNC culminated with President Biden accepting the party’s nomination live from his home state of Delaware, in front of a socially distanced, invite-only crowd and a large media presence.

In fall of 2021, when city leaders began campaigning for another chance to host a major national political convention – submitting bids for both the RNC and DNC – one main selling point was past experience bidding on and preparing for the 2020 DNC.

Throughout the RNC bidding process – despite pushback from some advocacy groups – leaders, including democratic Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, continued to point to the event’s financial windfall and boost to the city’s economy, especially its tourism and hospitality sectors. The effort’s bipartisan support was reflected in the group of local leaders who showed up in celebration of the official bid signing on Friday.

The group included Mayor Johnson; County Executive David Crowley; Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas; Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman; Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO of VISIT Milwaukee; Marty Brooks, CEO of the Wisconsin Center District; Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce; Paul Bartolotta, owner of The Bartolotta Restaurant Group; Michael Evans, president of Marcus Hotels & Resorts; Sarah Smith Pancheri, president of Milwaukee World Festivals; Eve Hall, president and CEO of Milwaukee Urban League, among others.

“This is not about politics, this is about Milwaukee and being able to showcase the city of Milwaukee on an international stage,” said Williams-Smith in an earlier interview with BizTimes. VISIT Milwaukee led the city’s bidding effort for both the 2020 DNC and the 2024 RNC.

“The Republican National Committee’s decision to bring its convention to Milwaukee represents yet another step forward for our region as an internationally recognized destination with the people, vibrant entertainment venues, infrastructure and expertise it takes to successfully host large-scale events,” said Sheehy in a statement. “… It is remarkable for an American city to secure two straight major party nominating conventions – a ringing endorsement for everything Milwaukee has to offer.”

Milwaukee’s business community will again be asked to contribute much of the funding necessary to put on a successful convention. The RNC’s local host committee is charged with securing the funds for its $70 million to $75 million budget, said Gerard Randall, secretary for the committee and executive director of the Milwaukee Education Partnership.

The local host committee is chaired by Reince Priebus, former chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party and the Republican National Committee and former White House chief of staff under President Donald Trump will serve as chair of the local host committee.

“This is going to be a transformational effort for the hospitality industry in Milwaukee,” said Randall in an earlier interview with BizTimes. “It allows us to showcase, the city, the amenities of the city and more importantly it reminds other convention planners that we have the ability to host large-scale gatherings and that more than anything will allow us to continue to experience conventions like the RNC and the DNC.”

Taking the podium on Friday, Mayor Johnson touted the city’s attractions and made a pitch to event organizers across the country: “Let this be the call that we want you in Milwaukee. If you’re a large scale convention or entertainment event, we want you in Milwaukee. If you’re the NBA All-Star Game, we want you in Milwaukee. If you’re the MLB All-Star game, guess what, we want you in Milwaukee. If you’re the Ryder Cup, again, we want you in Milwaukee. If you’re the USA Triathlon, we want you in Milwaukee. If you’re the WWE Summer Slam, we want you in Milwaukee.”

“I’m very optimistic about the city of Milwaukee, very optimistic about the city’s future. There are a wide range of very positive signs for Milwaukee and its future, and the opportunity to host a major political convention is just one of those positive signs,” he said.

The last in-person RNC was held in Cleveland in 2016. Since then, convention and meeting leads have nearly doubled. Cleveland also attributes its landing of the 2021 NFL Draft, the 2019 MLB All-Star Game and the 2022 NBA All-Star game in part because of the vetting from the RNC, according to a VISIT Milwaukee news release.

Dates for the 2024 RNC are yet to be determined. VISIT Milwaukee will work with party officials to determine a timeframe that the city would have to move the least amount of business, said Williams-Smith. Like the 2020 DNC, Fiserv Forum will house the convention floor and main stage, with the remainder of the event taking place at the Wisconsin Center, which is currently undergoing a $420 million expansion. The project is slated for an early 2024 completion, months ahead of the RNC. There will also be hundreds of ancillary events that take place across the area leading up to and during the convention.

“Whether it’s an organization like AT&T or the Speaker of the House, they all host events and they will all need venues and catering services and musicians,” said Randall.

Convention planning will soon be underway and VISIT Milwaukee, along with its community partners, will announce informational sessions to help local businesses stay on top of RNC news as well as find helpful information about how to get involved, VISIT said in its release.

The RNC’s host city selection is already sparking opposition from several political community, campus and labor groups who have formed the new “Coalition to March on the RNC.” The group issued a media advisory Friday morning announcing it would hold a press conference outside city hall following the RNC announcement.

“We welcome the opportunity to rally the masses of people across the country in opposition to the Republicans and their racist, sexist, bigoted, anti-worker agenda,” said Omar Flores, one of the spokespeople for the new coalition. “We’ll bring the fight right to their doorstep at their national convention in 2024.”

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Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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