Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson pitches Biden on 2024 Chicago convention

CHICAGO — Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson this week pitched President Joe Biden on holding the Democratic National Convention here in 2024, a person close to Johnson told NBC News on Friday.

The topic came up in a private call Wednesday after Biden congratulated Johnson on winning the Chicago mayor’s race in a contest that captured national attention.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday night.

The person close to Johnson said the mayor-elect also repeatedly discussed his intent on bringing the convention to the city in both calls and meetings with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, countering concerns that interest in Chicago might be diminished amid the transition from outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot to Johnson.

“He brings a real excitement to the job … to the people of Chicago and I think that’s being felt in Washington, D.C,” Pritzker said at a joint news conference with Johnson on Friday.

In a private meeting on Friday, Johnson and Pritzker “discussed ways we could work together to bring the Democratic National Convention in 2024,” a statement from Johnson’s team said.

Johnson’s conversations with Biden and Pritzker come as the sweepstakes to hold the convention have run into overtime. The finalists — Atlanta, Chicago and New York City — are awaiting the White House’s decision, which is ultimately up to Biden, on where to hold the quadrennial event.

Each city has made aggressive pitches to the Democratic National Committee. Midwest elected officials backed Chicago in a recent letter to the White House, and southern Democrats made a similar pitch on behalf of Atlanta. Labor leaders, meanwhile, argued for New York City.

But with Johnson’s victory on Tuesday, even some New York-aligned advocates are saying he could boost Chicago’s chances of landing the convention.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, a Biden ally who is on record supporting New York’s bid for the convention, said Friday that Johnson’s win could be a game-changer.

“I do think that this changes the Chicago bid. You’ve just had this pro-teacher, pro-worker, pro-union person elected as mayor of Chicago,” Weingarten, who backed Johnson in the race, told NBC News. “It sends a powerful message.”

Weingarten said that while she still supports New York, “you now have a very exciting moment in Chicago, where a multi- generational, multi-ethnic, multi-racial coalition has elected a new African American mayor who happens to be a school teacher and union member.”

Johnson won the race with a coalition of support that included progressives and an overwhelming backing from the city’s African American community.

The former teacher and Chicago Teachers Union organizer beat the better-funded candidate, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, who, along with outside groups, had outspent Johnson two-to-one on television ads.

Johnson brings to the table influential Biden allies such as former senior White House adviser Cedric Richmond, who now advises the DNC, and the powerful South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn – both of whom backed Johnson for mayor.

On Friday, Pritzker, who also personally talked to Biden about holding the convention in Chicago, made another Chicago pitch to reporters.

“The best convention that anyone could have would be here in the city of Chicago. We’ve worked hard to make sure we’re communicating that to all the folks at the DNC as well as the White House,” the governor said. “I think we’ve done that and we’ve been successful in getting our points across.”

Lightfoot had been feverishly working with Pritzker to convince the DNC to pick Chicago for 2024.

Pritzker on Friday held up Illinois as a bastion of Democratic values, unlike some states that are home to a convention finalist, a not-so-veiled reference to Atlanta.

“In the competitive back and forth with all the cities, Chicago demonstrates that … it’s in a state that’s pro-choice that has stood up for labor rights and for workers – that we’re a state that is opposed to assault weapons and that’s not true of some of the competitor states,” he said.

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