When Mayor Eric Adams of New York runs into White House officials, promoting his city to host the Democratic National Convention is often among his top three agenda items.
When Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois rode with President Biden in his motorcade last spring, he pressed the case for Chicago’s convention bid. And days before Mr. Biden landed in Atlanta this month, Mayor Andre Dickens was likewise plotting his pitch to the president.
The battle over where Democrats should host their presidential convention in 2024 has been unfolding for months in some of the country’s largest Democratic-run cities. It is at once an opaque insider’s game and a spirited debate over Democratic messaging and symbolism, shaped by regional rivalries, whispered disparagement of competitors and high-powered public jockeying.
“There’s sort of a baseline of stuff that matters,” said Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, a former Democratic National Committee finance chair, pointing to issues like security and hotel capacity. “You then sort of step back and you ask yourself, ‘Does this city fit who we are as a party?’”
Atlanta, Chicago and New York remain in contention and have advancedtoward the endgame of the process, hashing out potential nuts-and-bolts terms with the D.N.C., according to two people with direct knowledge of the bidding process. Of those three cities, Atlanta and Chicago have often been seen as leading contenders, but in many ways, the final decision will be a matter of Mr. Biden’s preference. Atlanta is the only one of those cities to be located in a presidential battleground state.
Houston, which also submitted a bid, is no longer being considered, a D.N.C. official confirmed. Mayor Sylvester Turner also said in an interview on Thursday that he had been informed that his city was out of the running.
For the 2020 Democratic convention, the host city was announced in March 2019, and Democrats involved expect a similar spring time frame this year, but caution the process is unpredictable.
Mr. Biden, 80, has said he intends to run again, but he has yet to officially announce a re-election campaign. If he is again his party’s standard-bearer, the convention would be his first real one as a presidential nominee. The 2020 event was a nearly entirely virtual affair, after the coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of major in-person appearances in Milwaukee.
Eyeing the next convention, boosters for various cities are building alliances with governors, senators, mayors and business leaders from their regions as they press their cases to Democratic officials and to the public.
“Midwestern Democrats know how to win big and get things done,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, endorsing the bid from nearby Illinois.
The Biden Presidency
Here’s where the president stands as the third year of his term begins.
- State of the Union: President Biden will deliver his second State of the Union speech on Feb. 7, at a time when he faces an aggressive House controlled by Republicans and a special counsel investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information.
- Chief of Staff: Mr. Biden plans to name Jeffrey D. Zients, his former coronavirus response coordinator, as his next chief of staff. Mr. Zients will replace Ron Klain, who has run the White House since the president took office two years ago.
- Voting Rights: A year after promising a voting rights overhaul in a fiery speech, Mr. Biden delivered a more muted message at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
“My heart’s with New York,” Mr. Murphy said. “It’s got all the infrastructure that the party needs. It’s historically a bastion of Democratic support.”
“The Democratic Party’s future on a national level is tied to success in the South,” declared former Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, who is working to secure support for Atlanta from other Southern officials.
Georgia undeniably holds political significance for Mr. Biden. The state, once reliably Republican, flipped for him in 2020, and then cemented the Democratic Senate majority.
“As the cradle of the civil rights movement, Georgia’s place in history and our national story ideally suit the Peach State to host the convention,” said Jon Ossoff, one of Georgia’s two Democratic senators.
Reflecting Mr. Biden’s preferences, a key committee at the D.N.C. has recommended that Georgia host an early presidential primary, although the state faces logistical hurdles in doing so. On a call last year with Nevada Democrats in which he discussed the primary calendar, Mr. Biden also mentioned Georgia, according to two people on the call.
“He was talking about Georgia, we need to put some emphasis there,” said Representative Dina Titus, Democrat of Nevada.
The White House declined to comment for this article.
The primary calendar lineup is separate from the convention decision. The latter is shaped as much by factors like hotel availability, union friendliness, transportation options, fund-raising ability from the various host committees and security considerations as it is by political calculations.
Mr. Dickens, the Atlanta mayor, said he had solicited the help of a number of prominent Southern Democrats to make the case for bringing the convention to his city, including former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, now a White House senior adviser; Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, a close Biden ally; and a number of mayors across the region.
Mr. Dickens and Ms. Bottoms sat in the front pew at Ebenezer Baptist Church on the Sunday before Martin Luther King’s Birthday, when Mr. Biden visited the congregation.
He was greeted by a wave of pro-Atlanta convention messaging: A full-page advertisement for the city to host the convention ran in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Several city leaders jostled for face time. Mr. Dickens said he aimed to include the convention “somewhere in the first three sentences” of his conversation with Mr. Biden when he greeted him.
Some union leaders across the country have begun weighing in — for Chicago or New York but against Atlanta. They maintain that it would be insulting to hold the Democratic convention in a state that is hostile to unions and in a city with very few unionized hotels.
“A lot of delegates to the D.N.C. don’t want to have to stay farther out or compromise their values” because a city has just a few union hotels, said Bob Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, who has made his case to party leaders.
Last week, eight prominent labor leaders, including Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, signed a letter to Mr. Biden encouraging him to host the convention in New York, a place to “demonstrate pro-worker principles.”
The convention does not have to use unionized hotels and convention workers, though it is encouraged.
Asked about criticisms of Georgia, Mr. Dickens replied, “Why wouldn’t you take the mantra of, ‘Let’s bring our brand of government and politics to the South?’ And you can then influence things.”
Advocates for Chicago — which is currently in the midst of a tumultuous mayor’s race — and of New York argue that a Democratic convention should be held in a place that unambiguously embraces Democratic values.
“We’re perhaps the most pro-choice state in the country, we have protected L.G.B.T.Q. rights, we have protected civil rights,” Mr. Pritzker said in an interview last year. In a follow-up statement this week, he pointed to other recent liberal achievements including “common-sense legislation to end gun violence.”
He has noted that the city often hosts large-scale events, the state reflects the nation’s diversity — and that summertime in Chicago, along Lake Michigan, is “phenomenal,” an implicit contrast with the heat and humidity in Atlanta, and the pungent summer smells of New York City. He also highlighted the city’s Midwestern location, in a critical battleground region, though Illinois itself is strongly Democratic.
Nearby mayors and governors, including Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, are supporting Chicago, as is Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. The Republican National Convention in 2024 is already scheduled for Milwaukee.
“We do not win national elections without the Midwest, and so I think it’s important for us to show up here,” said Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway of Madison, Wis.
But some Chicago-skeptical Democrats quietly point out that the city is closely associated with a different Democratic president — Barack Obama — and argue that the only splashy convention Mr. Biden would ever get should be in a place that could be made to feel distinctly his own.
New York is not competitive in presidential elections, but advocates insist that no city can match the nation’s largest in easily absorbing thousands of convention-goers.
In an interview, Mayor Adams emphasized New York’s event infrastructure and cast the racially diverse, liberal city as a place that showcases “all the values that we look for in the Democratic Party.” (Democrats in the state, however, had a deeply disappointing midterm election.)
“When you do an examination of all the things that a good convention looks like, it says New York,” Mr. Adams proclaimed. “It reeks with New York.”
He described the city as a walkable cultural capital, a place where spouses of attendees, too, would be entertained — “A happy family is a good experience for the convention.”
New York’s prominent political backers include the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer; Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the House Democratic leader; and the Clintons. Other cities are home to major Democratic donors — including Mr. Pritzker himself — but New York is an especially significant fund-raising center.
Then there was Houston, a 2020 convention finalist in an electoral vote-rich state Democrats dream of flipping. In an interview Thursday morning, Mr. Turner, the mayor, urged his party to be more “forward-thinking in terms of, how do you expand the map?”
“At some point,” he said, “Democrats are going to have to invest in its future rather than just trying to lock in what it currently has.”
Jonathan Weisman contributed reporting.