Atlanta steps up bid for Democratic convention: ‘We’re going to get the DNC’

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

As President Joe Biden nears his decision on where to hold his party’s showcase event next year, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens spoke with certainty about the city’s bid.

“We’re going to get the DNC,” Dickens told a crowd at an Atlanta Press Club event, adding that he’s optimistic Biden will send word of his decision about the Democratic National Convention soon after Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

The first-term mayor’s remarks underscore Atlanta’s confidence going into the final stages of a competition for the presidential nominating convention against Chicago and New York.

The city has engaged in an all-out lobbying effort to win Biden’s approval for the quadrennial event, which is expected to bring 50,000 visitors to the city — and highlight Georgia’s status as one of the nation’s most important political battlegrounds.

The mayor and other Democratic leaders press Biden and his inner circle on the city’s bid every chance they get. And they gathered dozens of prominent regional leaders to endorse Atlanta last week — a show of force that national Democrats say left a deep impression.

Notably, one of the supporters was the mayor of Houston, another finalist for the convention that was ruled out last month by party officials.

But Dickens’ message also indicated a different strategy, too, as he discussed benefits that stretched beyond politics.

“You don’t have to be a Democrat to be happy that the DNC is coming to Atlanta,” he said, adding that it would force both parties to shine a greater spotlight on Georgia ahead of the 2024 election.

“If Democrats make investments in Georgia and it shows some progress, then now Georgia becomes a state that Democrats and Republicans have to invest in and pay attention to Georgia,” Dickens said. “And the issues of Georgia start to become national issues.”

The mayor added: “Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you want your voice heard.”

‘Surprising and encouraging’

Georgia has been no stranger to the national stage. Biden’s narrow victory in 2020 made him the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state in nearly three decades, and the party’s doubleheader wins in the 2021 U.S. Senate runoffs flipped control of the chamber to Democrats.

But Dickens’ argument also has resonated with Republicans. Gov. Brian Kemp and his allies are taking no steps to obstruct the city’s bid — and are quietly encouraging it, eager to position the city’s potential win as a testament to the Republican-led state’s economic policies.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

Howard Franklin, a well-connected lobbyist promoting the city’s bid, has held events in Atlanta, Washington and across the region focusing on the financial impact.

“Some of the most surprising — and encouraging — support comes from Republican leaders and lobbyists in Georgia’s Statehouse, who see the convention as an economic boon for Georgia and an opportunity to counterprogram during the 2024 election,” he said.

ExploreA year later, the Kemp-Dickens reset is in full swing

Separately, national Democrats voted this weekend to move Georgia to an earlier spot on the presidential primary calendar. But that requires the signoff of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who has said he’s unlikely to approve the schedule reshuffle.

But the convention bid is up to the White House, and Atlanta boosters have sought to win over Biden by reminding him of the state’s pivotal role in his 2020 win and its storied civil rights legacy. Organizers say they have also lined up tens of millions of dollars in financial commitments to stage the event.

Dickens said he’s not sure how quickly Atlanta will be informed it won the party’s bid. But he said he’s confident it’s coming.

“Somewhere in there they’re going to come down to Atlanta with a nice note to me, it’s going to say, ‘We’re coming to Atlanta for the DNC,” he said to laughs from the crowd. “I don’t know how they make those announcements — but it’s going to be made.”

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray