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Milwaukee Outduels Miami for the 2020 Democratic National Convention

March 12, 2019 - 8:15am
Milwaukee's Fishery Forum
Milwaukee's Fishery Forum

Miami may have more experience hosting Super Bowls and other major national events, but it was Milwaukee chosen Monday to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

"I'm grateful for every finalist city for being a part of this process with us," tweeted Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, "now let's get ready for 2020." He was talking specifically about Milwaukee's glitzier rivals, Miami and Houston.

The convention is set for the Fisherv Forum, home arena of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, July 13-16, 2020. Bucks Vice President  Alex Lasry, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., led the winning effort for Wisconsin, a state President Donald Trump narrowly won in 2016.

The event will mark the first time in more than a century Democrats will convene in a Midwest city other than Chicago. The 2016 Democratic National Convention provided a $230 million economic boost for Philadelphia.

But, why did Miami lose out?

The Miami Herald reported the decision might be as personal as it was political, referring to the ties Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has to Milwaukee. "That Perez married his wife in Milwaukee was a fact referenced often in Miami as the chairman waited, and waited, and waited to make a decision," the Miami Herald said.

The newspaper said Fisherv Forum might have something to do with the committee's choice. "And when DNC negotiators raised some dissatisfaction with the Miami arena’s lack of suites, arena representatives who were initially cool to the campaign offered to make any necessary renovations to accommodate the convention," the Herald said.

Some have opined the date of the convention might have had something to do with the committee's decision. The DNC is scheduled for July, which is in hurricane season -- although not the busiest month for the big storms.

Political operatives, though, said the decision was less about Miami-Dade's negatives than Wisconsin's positives. Gov. Scott Walker's defeat after Trump's election shows the Democrats can compete against the president in the Badger State. In fact, if former vice president Joe Biden is the party's presidential nominee, and if the Dems win the Rust Belt states -- particularly Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania -- they will be close to clinching 270 electoral votes. That's even if the GOP captures Florida and Ohio.

Said Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo in a Monday afternoon press release, "While we are disappointed that Miami was not chosen as the host city, we are excited for America to see our 2020 candidates take the stage in Milwaukee. I want to thank Mayor Dan Gelber and his outstanding team who went above and beyond to highlight Miami's strengths.

"We are currently in talks to host one of the first primary debates in Florida this summer. We believe it is essential for our candidates to be introduced to Florida voters as early as possible -- and this is the best way to do that. We will continue to encourage the DNC to make this early investment in Florida to help set-up our eventual nominee for success on day one."

According to WTMJ-TV Milwaukee, Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, is just as happy as state Democrats that their national party chose Milwaukee. He said he thinks the 50,000 visitors the 2020 DNC is expected to draw to the Brew City is an economic win. "It's super for Milwaukee. It's super for the state. Their money is not red money, it's not blue money, it's green money," Walker said.

The former governor said the common assumption is that the 2020 DNC will play a big role in energizing Wisconsin's Democrats. But Walker thinks the state's Republicans will be just as motivated.

"I think the fact that you're going to have not just all these Democrats here, but some of the most extreme elements of their party here and focused on Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin, I think that might motivate not only Republican voters but Independent voters who might look at that and go, 'wait a minute,'" he said.

The 2020 Republican convention will be Aug. 24-27 at the Spectrum Center in uptown Charlotte, N.C. North Carolina is a fiercely contested battleground state for the GOP. Convention Chair Toni Anne Dashiell said organizers began staffing the event in the weeks following the November election.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

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