Milwaukee chosen as likely site for 2024 Republican National Convention

Bill Glauber
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MILWAUKEE – Republicans appear bound for Milwaukee in 2024.

A GOP site selection panel on Friday picked Milwaukee as the host city for the 2024 Republican National Convention.

The full Republican National Committee must approve the choice during its summer meeting in Chicago, Aug. 2-5.

In a statement, RNC Senior Advisor Richard Walters said: "Today, the Site Selection Committee voted to recommend Milwaukee to host the 2024 Republican National Convention and it is a testament to the forthright and professional behavior embraced by Milwaukee’s city leaders throughout the process. A final decision will be made by Chairwoman McDaniel and the full RNC in the coming weeks,” he said.

The Milwaukee downtown skyline along Lake Michigan is seen with the Milwaukee Art Museum, the US Bank building, and the Northwest Mutual tower in Milwaukee on Sunday, May 29, 2022.

Nashville was the other finalist, and could still be selected by the full RNC. But its bid stalled earlier this month when a framework agreement to host the event was pulled before a vote in the City Council.

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There are three potential blocks of dates for the event in July and August of 2024. A final decision on the convention dates is expected to be made by the end of this year.

Republicans saw it was clear Milwaukee officials wanted the convention.

For Milwaukee and swing-state Wisconsin, hosting Republicans will provide a second chance to make a big political impression.

Democrats chose Milwaukee for their convention in 2020, but it was pared back and turned into a mostly virtual event because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As Milwaukee advanced in the process, the city emphasized that it was a "turnkey" operation because of all the advance planning for the 2020 Democratic convention.

There were obvious political considerations as well. Wisconsin is a vital presidential battleground that Trump won in 2016 and President Joe Biden claimed in 2020. Coming to Milwaukee to nominate the ticket could give Republicans a boost in the state in 2024.

Reince Priebus, Gerard Randall and Peggy Williams-Smith have played lead roles in Milwaukee's bid to host the 2024 Republican National Convention. Priebus is the former chairman of the RNC, Randall is vice charman of the state Republican Party, and Williams-Smith is chief executive of VISIT Milwaukee.

Milwaukee's bid has been spearheaded by VISIT Milwaukee president and chief executive Peggy Williams-Smith and Gerard Randall, first vice chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

The local committee is headed by Reince Priebus, a White House chief of staff under President Donald Trump and the former head of the state Republican Party.

The host committee plans on raising $65 million for the event, which is expected to lure up to 50,000 visitors and provide a $200 million economic boost.

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Main venues for a Milwaukee convention would include Fiserv Forum and the Wisconsin Center, which is undergoing an expansion that is expected to be finished in time for the event.

Yet bringing the Republicans to Milwaukee, a Democratic city, calls for a deft political touch.

Convention supporters got buy-in from Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. Both were heavily involved in wooing Republican officials during a site visit and later follow-up meeting in Washington, D.C.

There were also delicate negotiations with the Milwaukee Common Council. After an initial setback, the council signed off by a unanimous 13-0 vote on a framework agreement.

The agreement detailed the size and scope of the event, including the city's responsibility to apply for a $50 million security grant from the federal government. The city would also have to deploy security at key sites, including hotels, close streets and provide parking for about 2,500 cars and 350 buses.