Across the South, leaders urge Biden to pick Atlanta for Dem convention

Credit: Ben Gray for the AJC

Credit: Ben Gray for the AJC

More than 60 say in letter that ‘selecting Atlanta will put Republicans on notice’

Dozens of the South’s leading political figures urged President Joe Biden on Monday to select Atlanta as the site of next year’s Democratic National Convention to “send a message to the base of our party that we will never take you for granted.”

More than 60 officials signed a letter saying that picking Atlanta for the prestigious event will “inspire Democrats in other competitive states to run, to organize, to fundraise and to volunteer in what is now truly fertile Democratic territory.”

“Selecting Atlanta will put Republicans on notice, making it abundantly clear to them that they will have to compete and allocate resources across every corner of the map if they want to keep pace with the gains we are making as Democrats,” the letter states.

It’s one of the most assertive moves yet by Atlanta boosters competing with Chicago and New York for the quadrennial event, which is expected to bring 50,000 visitors to the city — and showcase Georgia’s status as one of the nation’s most important political battlegrounds.

The letter was signed by senior elected officials and local leaders that include U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia, and former U.S. Sens. Doug Jones, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor.

It also featured many of the biggest names in Georgia Democratic politics, with signatures from the party’s entire congressional delegation, former Gov. Roy Barnes and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.

Among other supporters are Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval and the state party chairs of Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, whose city is no longer in the running, also formally endorsed Atlanta.

The spree of supporters was designed as a show of force for Atlanta’s proposal just days ahead of the Democratic National Committee’s winter meetings, which begin Thursday in Philadelphia. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are both set to speak at the event on Friday.

Credit: Ben Gray for the AJC

Credit: Ben Gray for the AJC

Atlanta’s bid centers on Georgia’s swing-state politics, with references to Biden’s flip of the state in the 2020 presidential election and the victories by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the U.S. Senate runoffs that gave Democrats control of the chamber.

“Democratic turnout in the state of Georgia is the single greatest reason that you and Vice President Harris are in the White House today instead of Donald Trump and it is the single greatest reason why Democrats have maintained a majority in the United States Senate,” states the letter addressed to Biden.

“Everything we have accomplished as a party since January of 2021 can be traced back to Georgia, and specifically, to the metro Atlanta area which swung the state in our favor.”

Also sharing the spotlight is the city’s rich civil rights history, something that the Choose Atlanta 2024 committee evokes with a slogan — “Make Good Trouble With Us” — that puts a twist on the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ iconic mantra.

“As the cultural and economic hub of Black America, the city embodies the American Dream in the 21st Century,” the letter states. “A nominating convention in the city of Atlanta will provide Joe Biden with a backdrop that reflects his personal values and embodies his vision for America.”

To press their case, Atlanta boosters took out a full-page ad in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this month to coincide with Biden’s visit to Ebenezer Baptist Church. The ad evoked the posters commonly deployed by activists during the civil rights movement.

Georgia is also in the running to become one of the first states to decide the Democratic presidential nominee in 2024 after Biden tapped the state to move up in the primary schedule, though party officials face an uphill fight without Republican help.

Organizers of Atlanta’s convention bid say they’ve lined up more than $20 million in commitments from the state’s largest corporations and key donors. The total cost could top $80 million, but roughly half could come from ticket sales, sponsorships and suite packages.

Jones, the Alabama Democrat, has helped secure endorsements from elected officials and prominent party figures across the region to show a united front in the South. Notably, Gov. Brian Kemp’s aides say the Republican won’t take any steps to interfere with the bid.

And Atlanta officials have pressed Biden and his aides on the convention bid every chance they get, including his visit this month to deliver a sermon at Ebenezer and a White House celebration last year of the Atlanta Braves’ championship season.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

The convention’s main event would be staged at State Farm Arena, which has played host to basketball games, big-ticket concerts and early voting. The CNN Center could hold the media area, and Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia World Congress Center could serve as other venues.

Officials are eager to remind national Democrats that State Farm was also the home of the state’s largest early voting site in 2020.

“Let’s nominate Joe Biden in the very building where over 40,000 Georgians cast their ballots — the deciding ballots for Georgia’s 16 electoral votes — for him in 2020,” the letter states.

“Hosting the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia will reignite the sense of enthusiasm that led him to victory and inspire Democrats around the country down the home stretch in 2024.”

The letter: