After convention loss, Georgia Dems stress South’s 2024 role

Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison celebrates Chicago’s winning bid for the party's 2024 convention. Special.

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Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison celebrates Chicago’s winning bid for the party's 2024 convention. Special.

CHICAGO — At the site of this city’s victory lap after winning the Democratic National Convention, national party Chair Jaime Harrison confessed that a family member wanted him to forgo Chicago in favor of Georgia’s capital for the big event.

“My mama lives in Atlanta, and she wanted the grandkids for the whole week,” Harrison said to laughter from jubilant local leaders celebrating their city’s winning bid for the party’s premier 2024 political showcase.

Harrison’s mother wasn’t the only Georgia advocate senior Democrats heard from after President Joe Biden disappointed Atlanta by picking the Windy City to ring in his expected nomination for a second term.

Within hours of the announcement, dejected Georgia leaders continued a strategy they honed during the tumultuous 2020 election cycle: harrying national Democrats for more money, more resources and more attention ahead of the next White House campaign.

“Convention or no, we know that Georgia will remain the center of the political universe in 2024,” said U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, the chair of the state party, adding that the state “represents not only the future of the Democratic Party but of our country.”

Georgia Democrats hope to emphasize the state’s pivotal role even as the national party shifts more attention to the Midwest — at the potential expense of the South, a region that tilts toward the GOP.

Georgia was the exception to that trend the past two election cycles, as Biden in 2020 became the first Democratic presidential contender to carry the state in decades and victories by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in 2021 and 2022 helped seal the party’s control of the U.S. Senate.

Stunned Georgia party leaders hope their all-out lobbying for the convention can still pay dividends by paving the way for more resources and investment in the state, which is destined to be targeted by both parties next year.

There are signs it has worked: A national Democratic official told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Georgia will be the first battleground state that the DNC plans to invest in for the 2024 election.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said he’s also jockeying for Georgia’s delegation to play a more prominent role in next year’s convention as the runner-up for the marquee event.

Credit: Ben Gray for the AJC

Credit: Ben Gray for the AJC

And state and national Democrats haven’t abandoned the uphill battle to move Georgia to an earlier date in next year’s primary schedule — a factor that Harrison noted as he stood flanked by Illinois officials on a picturesque day in front of Chicago’s skyline.

“The (Democratic National Committee) has already helped Atlanta and Georgia because it is now in the early-state window, which is going to be a huge economic boom for generations to come,” Harrison said. “We’re invested in Georgia.”

‘A very giving community’

That doesn’t erase the sting of defeat for local Democrats who were confident that Georgia’s civil rights legacy, strategic importance and sentimental ties to Biden as a key to his 2020 victory would win over the president.

At the Chicago event, party officials danced around the question of why Biden ultimately decided to hold his expected nomination celebration in the Democratic stronghold of Illinois rather than advancing the party’s efforts to expand a beachhead in the South by picking Atlanta.

That may be because one of the biggest factors in the decision was standing beside them: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is widely credited by local and national party leaders with helping to seal the deal by agreeing to help cover the costs of an event that could reach as high as $100 million.

“We have a very giving community,” said Pritzker, a billionaire Democrat who is seen as a potential future White House contender.

Plenty of other factors shaped the decision, including Georgia’s Republican-led hostility to labor unions, strict abortion limits and permissive gun laws that stand in sharp contrast to the liberal united front in deep-blue Chicago.

Important, too, is the Democratic dream of firming up a “blue wall” in the Upper Midwest — and denying an incursion by Republicans who are holding their convention in the neighboring swing state of Wisconsin in July 2024.

The DNC, in announcing the decision, said the “critical Democratic stronghold” of the Midwest was crucial to Biden’s 2020 victory and his party’s wins in the midterms.

And Chicago boosters noted that Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin voted Democratic in every presidential election over the past 30 years — with the exception of 2016, when Donald Trump’s capture of Michigan and Wisconsin paved the way for his victory.

“That is why Chicago and the Midwest make sense for the DNC,” said Illinois U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an architect of Chicago’s bid. “We’re an example of what it looks like when you work to solve the real challenges that working families face every single day.”

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Georgia Democrats wanted to make it clear that the state is as crucial to the party’s future as the Midwest.

“Georgia is still very much in the center of politics and presidential politics in particular,” said Bobby Kahn, former head of the Georgia Democratic Party. “So good for Chicago, but I think the activity and action in the general election of 2024 is going to be right here.”

As for Harrison, he said he wished he could award Atlanta the party’s convention in 2028 or 2032. But that’s a fight for another day. He did leave with a concession from the Illinois governor for next year’s bash.

“I’m cordially inviting your mother to be my guest here in Chicago,” Pritzker told him. “I’ll help take care of the grandkids.”

Staff writers Riley Bunch and Wilborn Nobles contributed to this article.

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