Politics 'It was a bit of a miracle': How Milwaukee...

‘It was a bit of a miracle’: How Milwaukee landed the 2024 Republican National Convention


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The 2024 Republican National Convention is officially scheduled to be held in Milwaukee, following a unanimous vote by the Republican National Committee. Committee Chair Rona McDaniel made the announcement Friday.

“Milwaukee is a world-class city, and we look forward to seeing it shine in the spotlight in 2024,” McDaniel wrote on Twitter.

The decision comes weeks after a GOP site selection panel unofficially selected the Wisconsin city as the host city for the 2024 Republican National Convention.

The Milwaukee pick has been around for a year. It started 11 months ago with a mail invitation that landed on the desk of Peggy Williams-Smith, president and chief executive of VISIT Milwaukee.

Was Milwaukee interested in bidding on the 2024 Republican National Convention?

Williams-Smith checked in with then-Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. He was on board. And the race was on.

On Friday, what once seemed like a far-fetched notion — bringing Republicans to the bright blue city on Lake Michigan — became a reality as the Republican National Committee officially selected Milwaukee to host the party’s presidential nominating convention in the summer of 2024.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Reince Priebus, former White House chief of staff under former President Donald Trump, were on hand to sign the framework agreement with RNC Chairwoman Rona McDaniel.

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How Milwaukee emerged from the pack to win the bid is a story of determination, organization and a bit of luck. With some cheese, sausage and beer.

Milwaukee was the last city standing after another finalist, Nashville, could not approve the deal. Nashville’s city council was embroiled in political conflict over holding the event.

“We were lucky enough to get support across the party line,” Williams-Smith said.

And the city somehow managed all that in the wake of a political hangover: dash dreams around the 2020 Democratic Convention, which became a mostly virtual event due to the pandemic.

“Many Democrats were excited to come to Milwaukee because of the opportunity to be on an international stage and create future business for the hospitality industry,” said Gerard Randall, who helped push Milwaukee’s 2024 event. .

“And when it didn’t happen, because it didn’t happen, I think people were a little skeptical that the Republicans would be able to make a successful effort here,” he said. “But you know, it dissipated very quickly. What we found is that almost all of the big corporations that were engaged in trying to get Democrats here in 2020 were certainly making the same commitment to us.”

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There were many important moments along the way. Milwaukee put its best foot forward during the RNC’s winter meetings in Salt Lake City in early February, celebrating the city’s food and hospitality.

“We really got the support,” Rendell said.

A few weeks later, the RNC site selection committee toured the city. Milwaukee bills itself as a “turnkey operation” because of all the work that goes into preparing for the Democratic convention.

Everything was in place, from the security measures to the main venues, Fiserv Forum and Wisconsin Center, to transportation and hotels. Significantly, local organizers maintained that delegates and their guests would be accommodated within 30 minutes of the Fiserv Forum.

It was during a site selection visit that Johnson, a Democrat, stepped up with an impassioned speech to select committee members over dinner at Lake Park Bistro.

Williams-Smith said the site selection members she dined with picked up their phones “and called mayors around the country saying ‘You meet this guy.’ “

During a trip to the Fiserve Forum, Priebus helped advance the bid with Scott Walker, the state’s former governor.

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Milwaukee advanced to the final round along with Nashville.

During a final presentation at the RNC office in Washington, DC in March, the bipartisan nature of Milwaukee’s bid was emphasized. Johnson and Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley were there. Republican US Sen. So was Ron Johnson. And Priebus sent a taped message.

“I’ve never wavered in my belief that once the convention is narrowed down to two cities, we’re going to get it,” Rendell said.

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Milwaukee was on its way.

The two-year countdown to the convention has now begun.

Final dates have not been set, but there are three possible windows in July and August 2024.

Funds have to be raised by local organizers. Randall said the final bill could be $70 million to $75 million. For its part, the city must apply for a $50 million federal grant for security.

The local planning committee is on the hook for any cost overruns.

For Milwaukee, the payout is up to 50,000 visitors, with local organizers claiming the event could generate $200 million in economic benefits.

Contributed by: Ella Lee

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