[AllPolitics - DNC '96 Facts]

Chicago Convention

A short history of the Windy City's selection


The August 1996 convention marks Chicago's 25th political convention - no city has held more; the tradition began when Abraham Lincoln received the 1860 Republican party nomination there. The last four political conventions held in Chicago (Democrats in 1952 and 1956; Republicans in 1960 and Democrats again in 1968) all nominated the losing ticket. If history repeats itself, both parties have a 50 percent chance of winning the state that hosted the convention. In half of the 24 national conventions held since World War II, the host state voted AGAINST the party that had just brought it extra visitors and publicity. The 1996 gathering will be the first time in 28 years the Democrats have held a convention in the "Windy City." (Source: Chicago Tribune, August 7, 1994)


On Thursday, August 4, 1994, then-Democratic National Committee Chairman David Wilhelm and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (son of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, who towered over Chicago politics from 1955 to 1976) announced that the city of Chicago was selected over several others to become the site of the 1996 Democratic national convention. The Illinois Democratic party started wooing the national party before the 1992 general election. Chicago and San Antonio emerged as the two final choices, but Chicago ultimately was selected as the host city. Other cities under consideration included New Orleans, New York and Los Angeles (but LA dropped out of the competition after its big earthquake, January 17, 1994).

Former DNC Chairman Wilhelm is a Chicagoan and was Mayor Daley's campaign manager before running Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. With Daley's support, Wilhelm secured an easy win in Illinois for Clinton (Clinton won with 48.6% to Bush's 34.3% and Perot's 16.6%). First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton also grew up in the northwest Chicago suburb of Park Ridge. Former DNC Chairman David Wilhelm said of their decision to come to Chicago: "It is the capital of the Midwest and it is the center of the heartland states -- states that we must win again in 1996 if we are going to be successful in sending our president back to the White House." Chicago's high bid of $32.1 million, its ample supply of hotel rooms and its regional importance were other key factors in the deal. Chicago made a bid for the 1996 Republican National Convention too, but a clause in the contract with the Democrats required the city to withdraw it. (Source: Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, August 5, 1994)


Illinois is considered to be a key battleground and bellwether state in the 1996 general election. Both Republicans and Democrats have been making the state a priority on the campaign trails with frequent visits, advertising, and targeting important issues like taxes, family values, crime and education. Democrats are hoping the Chicago convention will enhance their chances of winning Illinois's 22 electoral votes (eight percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to guarantee the presidency and the most electoral votes of and Midwestern state). Although President Clinton is ahead in statewide polls, the GOP is planning a fight in Illinois by tapping in to GOP Governor Jim Edgar's infrastructure and popularity with voters (Edgar won his last two elections, 1990 and 1994, with over 63% of the vote). Gov. Edgar is a national co-chairman for Bob Dole's campaign and had been mentioned as a possible Dole running mate candidate. In addition, Democrats expect the 1996 convention to replace the bitter memory of the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention. "That's when Vietnam War protesters clashed with Chicago police, giving the city and Daley's father (Mayor Richard Daley), a black eye that has lasted for nearly three decades," according to the Chicago Sun Times.


The convention venue is the new United Center, a 23,000-seat sports complex in a run-down neighborhood just west of the business district and home to Chicago's basketball team, the Chicago Bulls, and hockey team, the Chicago Blackhawks. The convention agreement also included a "no strike" pledge by local unions and a commitment to grant at least 25% of convention contracts to minority firms and at least 5% to companies owned by women. A $3-million temporary facility will be constructed next to the center to provide work space for news organizations. Chicago officials expect to pump over $100 million into the local economy, and that figure could go as high as $120 million. (Source: The Washington Post, August 5, 1994 and Chicago Tribune, June 10, 1996)


Co-Chairmen Platform Committee: Rep. Barbara Kennelly (CT) Detroit;
Mayor Dennis Archer
Co-Chairmen Rules Committee: Florida State Rep.
Anne Mackenzie; Philadelphia Mayor Edward Rendell
Co-Chairmen Credentials Committee: Delaine Eastin, CA Superintendent
of Public Instruction;
Martin "Marty" Chavez, Mayor Albuquerque, NM
Chief Executive Officer: Debra DeLee
Convention Manager: Don Foley
Communications Director: Katherine (Kiki) Moore

(SOURCES: Chicago Tribune (August 7, 1994; May 19, 1996; June 10, 1996); Associated Press (August 3 and 5, 1994; June 21, 1996); Chicago Sun-Times August 5, 1994; Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel August 5, 1994; The Washington Post August 5, 1994)

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