Illi­nois Democrats plan vir­tual at-home con­ven­tion pro­gram; del­e­gates still get swag

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The Demo­cratic COVID-19 pan­demic vir­tual con­ven­tion kicks off next Mon­day, a pure tele­vi­sion and so­cial me­dia prime­time event with the Demo­cratic Party of Illi­nois pro­duc­ing its own 90-minute daily pre-con­ven­tion on­line pro­gram, the Chicago Sun­Times has learned.

In past con­ven­tions, the Illi­nois del­e­ga­tion hud­dled at break­fast meet­ings, where state and lo­cal po­lit­i­cal in­trigue was dished up with the high-calo­rie buf­fet while lob­by­ists, op­er­a­tives, donors, elected and ap­pointed of­fi­cials plus re­porters lurked in the back­ground.

A byprod­uct of the pan­demic is that the po­lit­i­cal drama that has been a sta­ple of in-per­son Illi­nois del­e­ga­tion morn­ing meet­ings is less likely to take place in 2020. In 2016 in Philadel­phia, then-Demo­cratic gov­er­nor po­ten­tial can­di­date Chris Kennedy, af­ter de­liv­er­ing a great speech to the del­e­ga­tion, cut into his suc­cess when re­porters mem­o­rably chased him into an el­e­va­tor want­ing to know if he re­ally was go­ing to run. The spec­ta­cle was tele­vised back home in Illi­nois.

In 2020, the 182 del­e­gates and 13 al­ter­nates from Illi­nois, in­stead of head­ing north to Mil­wau­kee, will cau­cus each day start­ing at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom or some other plat­form un­til the con­ven­tion starts at 8 p.m.

DPI ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Mary Morrissey told the Sun-Times the state party wants to turn the vir­tual na­ture of the del­e­ga­tion meet­ings into an ad­van­tage, that is, “to use this as an op­por­tu­nity to broaden our out­reach be­yond our del­e­ga­tion.”

Those Mon­day through Thurs­day vir­tual cau­cus ses­sions will be open to the pub­lic, with the aim, Morrissey said, to con­vert what had been an in­sider morn­ing play into a party-build­ing event by let­ting ev­ery­one into the room. The party hasn’t fi­nal­ized the link yet.

The slo­gan for the week is the “Con­ven­tion from Home,” with the state party logo re­tooled to be cov­ered with a face mask.

DPI chair Mike Madi­gan, also the Illi­nois House Speaker, un­der a cloud in the on­go­ing Com­mon­wealth Edi­son scan­dal with a few Democrats call­ing for him to step down from his lead­er­ship roles, will pre­side over each Illi­nois del­e­ga­tion daily meet­ing. “The plan is he would wel­come ev­ery­one, just like he’s done in the past,” Morrissey said.

Illi­nois ‘Con­ven­tion from Home’

Illi­nois con­ven­tion plans in­clude:

♦ In or­der to give Illi­nois del­e­gates some spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ences, the party will throw a vir­tual wel­come re­cep­tion for them Sun­day af­ter­noon at 4:30 p.m. with pos­si­ble speaker Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. Del­e­gates will still get sou­venir con­ven­tion swag bags — de­tails be­low.

♦ Each night, the Illi­nois party will do pro­gram­ming around themes speak­ing to core Demo­cratic con­stituen­cies.

On Mon­day, the fo­cus is on “lift­ing up” work­ers; Tues­day, women lead­ers and women’s rights; Wednes­day, “fight­ing for eco­nomic and racial jus­tice” and on Thurs­day, when Joe Bi­den ac­cepts the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion, a “call to ac­tion,” with de­tails of the speak­ers still be­ing worked out.

Former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle will speak at the con­ven­tion, and it’s likely Sen. Tammy Duck­worth, in the run­ning for Bi­den’s vice pres­i­dent pick, will have a speak­ing role as a con­ven­tion vice chair, even if not tapped by Bi­den.

Obama is an Illi­nois del­e­gate. The Oba­mas have been asked to speak to the del­e­ga­tion, as has Chicago na­tive Hil­lary Clin­ton, the 2016 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee. With Illi­nois a safe state for Bi­den, the home­town ties won’t mat­ter much if their time is bet­ter spent crank­ing up swing state Demo­cratic del­e­ga­tions.

Duck­worth, Sen. Dick Durbin, Mayor Lori Light­foot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, plus other statewide of­fi­cials, will also likely ad­dress Illi­nois del­e­gates with time slots not yet fi­nal­ized.

Light­foot will speak at some of the day­time vir­tual na­tional cau­cus events, stop­ping by the Tues­day LGBTQ ses­sion and the Black cau­cus meet­ing Wednes­day, with other events pend­ing on her sched­ule.

♦ Spe­cial in­ter­ests do­ing busi­ness in Illi­nois in past years spon­sored con­ven­tion events, and that’s one thing that’s not dif­fer­ent in 2020. Groups who had agreed to help un­der­write in-per­son con­ven­tion costs will still donate and be rec­og­nized as spon­sors even though ev­ery­thing is vir­tual. They are: Ad­vo­cate Aurora Health, the health care sys­tem; Pep­sico, the snack and bev­er­age com­pany; Ul­lico, the in­sur­ance com­pany; LIUNA, the La­bor­ers’ In­ter­na­tional Union of North Amer­ica; RAI, Reynolds Amer­i­can Inc., the to­bacco com­pany; and Wis­con­sin En­ergy, the par­ent com­pany of Peo­ples Gas, with cus­tomers in Chicago and North Shore Gas, which op­er­ates in the north­ern sub­urbs.

♦ Swag bags will be mailed to del­e­gates, and items in­clude a Pep­sico in­su­lated cup; a Peo­ples en­ergy ther­mal lunch bag; an Ul­lico con­ven­tion T-shirt and sou­venir but­tons and plac­ards.

♦ Illi­nois del­e­gates will be able to watch the con­ven­tion to­gether in an open Zoom chan­nel and chat among them­selves. Wav­ing plac­ards have been an im­por­tant part of the in-per­son con­ven­tion vi­su­als and ex­pe­ri­ence, and del­e­gates can still do it, just not to­gether. The del­e­gate signs say, be­sides Illi­nois for Bi­den, “Bring Back Kind­ness” and “Unity Over Di­vi­sion.”


Illi­nois Demo­cratic Party Chair and House Speaker Michael Madi­gan at the 2016 Demo­cratic con­ven­tion. He will pre­side over the state’s 2020 vir­tual del­e­ga­tion meet­ings.

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