Milwaukee and Nashville vie for 2024 Republican National Convention


Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson doesn’t usually make bold statements.

But after a recent tour of the construction site of the Wisconsin Center expansion, Johnson told reporters he was “extremely confident” about Milwaukee’s chances of winning the right to host the 2024 Republican National Convention.

But the trust will only carry one bid so far, especially in a convention race as close as the one between Milwaukee and Nashville.

It’s the material things that count: raising funds to organize the event, arranging logistics like transportation and security, and securing hotel rooms.

Milwaukee has already shown it has the ability to win such a contest.

The city’s claim to the 2020 Democratic National Convention raised hopes that Milwaukee’s moment had arrived.

But that event turned into a big show that largely escaped.

It was a pandemic-tainted and curtailed civic disappointment. Week after week during the early stages of the pandemic, expectations dimmed until all that remained was a virtual event that took place on video feeds across the country with just a small production inside the Wisconsin Center.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden has claimed his party’s nomination in… Delaware.

In the aftermath, it looked like the old rules of convention could be erased and virtual could replace in-person.

But the reality is that major events remain important for politics.

So we’re back for another convention contest.

The finalists – Milwaukee and Nashville – have a lot to offer.

Here’s what you need to know about the evolution of racing.

How did we come here?

The buildup began last year when cities pitched tires by bidding.

A handful of cities and locations talked about getting into the nominations game, but decided to pass — Columbus, Ohio; Las Vegas, San Antonio, Kansas City and the State of Georgia.

In winter, Milwaukee, Nashville, Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh were there.

Then came the elimination match. Pittsburgh pulled out in early February. After a series of site-selection visits, Salt Lake City was out in March and encouraged to make another run in 2028.

That left Milwaukee and Nashville.

How much will it cost?

Milwaukee organizers said they plan to raise $65 million to stage the convention. They say they already have commitments for $20 million.

What is the reward?

For Milwaukee, up to 50,000 delegates, media and other visitors are believed to be in the area, with organizers claiming a $200 million economic boost. Nashville would expect roughly the same boost.

When will the congress take place?

It should take place over four days, at the end of July or August 2024.

Who decides ?

The Republican National Committee has what is called a site selection committee, which evaluates the offers and makes a recommendation. The site’s panel is led by Anne Hathaway, a former longtime aide to former Vice President Dan Quayle. She now runs Hathaway Strategies, an Indianapolis-based public affairs consulting firm.

Ultimately, the congress city is chosen by the 168 members of the RNC. A decision is expected to be made at the RNC summer meeting in August.

Who are the key players in Milwaukee’s bid?

Reince Priebus, Gerard Randall and Peggy Williams-Smith played leading roles in Milwaukee's bid to host the 2024 Republican National Convention. Priebus is the former RNC Chairman, Randall is the Republican Party's Vice Charman of the State and Williams-Smith is the general manager of VISIT Milwaukee.

The effort is led by Peggy Williams-Smith, chief executive and president of VISIT Milwaukee, the group that boosts tourism in the area.

Gerard Randall, Vice Chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, also played a vital role in garnering support and coordinating the candidacy on behalf of the party.

If Milwaukee wins the bid, Reince Priebus is expected to chair the local organizing committee. Priebus, a Kenosha native who previously led the state’s Republican Party and Republican National Committee, served as former President Donald Trump’s first White House chief of staff.

Top GOP donors Kathryn “Murph” Burke and philanthropist Ted Kellner were also instrumental in securing financial support for the bid.

What is at stake politically?

Milwaukee is in a swing state that could determine who wins the White House in 2024 while Nashville is in a red state likely to remain safe for Republicans in 2024.

What does Milwaukee boast?

The skyline of the city of Milwaukee on Monday, April 8, 2019. Photo by Chelsey Lewis and Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The promoters summarize their offer in one word: turnkey.

Milwaukee supporters are telling anyone who will listen that all this preparation for the 2020 Democratic Convention means many of the same plans can be used for Republicans.

They’ve already established a compact security zone, made arrangements for transportation, shown they can make deals with key facilities.

The centerpiece is the Fiserv Forum, a state-of-the-art arena that can be outfitted however the Republicans wish. An added bonus this time around is the Wisconsin Center, which is undergoing a massive construction project that will nearly double in size and be completed before the convention begins.

For Democrats in 2020, organizers planned to host delegates as far away as suburban Chicago. In contrast, the GOP has fewer delegates. With 19,000 hotel rooms in the area, Milwaukee says it can place delegates and their guests within a 30-minute drive of the Fiserv Forum.

And there are plenty of bars and restaurants within walking distance of the arena.

What does Nashville offer?

Music City Center and Bridgestone Arena as seen from the Four Seasons Private Residences Nashville Grand Penthouse on Thursday, June 24, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.

As the home of country music, Nashville has it all: grand hotels, state-of-the-art venues and a vibrant downtown neighborhood.

The centerpiece of the bid: Bridgestone Arena and the 2.1 million square foot Music City Center.

Nashville has 15,291 rooms within a two-mile radius of its main locations and 36,816 rooms in Davidson County. This means travel times for delegates would be drastically reduced, a bonus for a party keen to stay focused on pageantry and politics.

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee fully supports the city’s bid, calling it a “tremendous economic opportunity.”

But Nashville Mayor John Cooper has indicated that the RNC will have to pay top dollar to come to town, telling reporters last month: “I don’t think the RNC really understands what we’re getting for a bedroom. hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. We’re not going to expect our hotel industry to suffer a loss for having that.”

Jenna Dicicco, right, and bride-to-be Julie Strohmeier of Ohio and other friends celebrate during a bachelorette party at the Nashville Pedal Taven in downtown Nashville on Saturday, July 18, 2015.

About this feature

This is a weekly article for online and Sunday print readers that delves into a current issue and explains the actions of decision makers. Email suggestions for future topics to [email protected]


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