Alex Lasry went to Philadelphia in 2016 to serve as a delegate for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention.
But in 2020, the Bucks’ senior vice president might be able to stay put for the convention, because Milwaukee could be its host city.
Lasry and others leading the effort to bring the convention to Milwaukee hosted members of the Democratic National Committee technical advisory team for two days.
Nineteen people — who arrived at General Mitchell International Airport beginning Aug. 27 — lodged in local hotels, toured arenas and centers, rode buses, and checked out eateries, pubs, and galleries. They also mingled with more than 150 business and community leaders at a meet-and-greet Aug. 28.
“We wanted to show the committee that Milwaukee is a unique city that could throw a really great convention,” Lasry said.
Campaigning for the convention
Lasry is at the forefront of the effort to bring the nominating convention to Milwaukee, which is competing with Miami-Miami Beach and Houston for the contract.
Another leader in the effort is U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, who shined at the party’s last convention in Philadelphia, reminding delegates of the stark differences between Clinton and Donald Trump in a prelude to Clinton’s acceptance speech.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also is leading the campaign, and he too is no novice when it comes to attending Democratic National Conventions. Barrett’s been to the past six — the 2016 convention in Philly; 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina; 2008 in Denver; 2004 in Boston; 2000 in Los Angeles and 1996 in Chicago.
The mayor, during the DNC’s visit, delivered this message: Except for the Chicago conventions, Democrats haven’t held a convention in the Midwest since 1916, when Woodrow Wilson was nominated in St. Louis.
“I also made the obvious point that Democrats did not do well in the Midwest in 2016,” said the mayor, whose assessment of the site visit was that it went very well.
Barrett said the Milwaukee 2020 Bid Committee demonstrated the city has the infrastructure, accommodations and amenities to host 50,000 people for an event that is like a political Super Bowl.
“It makes so much sense to have it here,” said Barrett.
How positive would a political convention be for Milwaukee? “I would be excited to have a Republican convention as well,” said the mayor, who then praised the bipartisan support for the campaign.
Lasry applauded the bipartisanship as well, calling the civic push a “pro-Milwaukee effort.”
“Milwaukee,” he said, “is a top-tier city. It’s becoming one of those cities like Austin or Denver.”
The DNC team arrived in Milwaukee less than 48 hours after the grand opening of the Fiserv Forum, the new home of the Milwaukee Bucks and a venue for performers who draw stadium-sized crowds.
“The arena is by far the most important piece,” said Thad Nation of Nation Consulting, which is supporting the campaign. “We have the most state-of-the-art arena (in the country) at this point.”
For past conventions, expensive retrofitting was required in the arenas, and halls for some conventions were many miles from other venues.
Nation boasted that in addition to the best arena, Milwaukee has 7,000 to 8,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the convention site. At past conventions, some delegates and journalists stayed in hotels 30 to 60 miles from arenas.
“This is a city where everything is compact,” Nation said. “And it’s easy to navigate.”
The Milwaukee hosts also stressed the city’s affordability and weather — the convention is set for July 13–16, 2020, the hot, humid and hurricane season in Miami and Houston.
The Milwaukee leadership has pledged to raise $50 million to $70 million to host a convention, which would have an economic impact of $200 million.
“This is as big as it gets,” said Nation.
A decision on the convention site will not be made before the midterm elections and possibly not before the new year.
Bid committee members said, for now, Milwaukeeans can support the effort by writing to the DNC, sending letters to newspaper editors and sharing stories about the opportunity on social media.
“The biggest thing is the committee wants to see that Milwaukee wants the convention,” Lasry said. “So continue to post to social media — that has an influence. This is big for Milwaukee. Share it.”