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Biden picks Wilmington for campaign HQ

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President Joe Biden Wilmington Delaware

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that his re-election campaign headquarters is coming home to Wilmington. | | PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID LIENEMANN/ BIDEN CAMPAIGN

WILMINGTON – President Joe Biden announced Tuesday morning that he has selected Wilmington to be the headquarters for his re-election campaign, bringing an untold economic impact back to his hometown for the next year.

The president and his campaign advisors have reportedly been debating for months over whether to run the nationwide campaign from Philadelphia as it did in 2020 or move it to the smaller Wilmington. In the end, Biden chose the First State.

President Joe Biden Wilmington Delaware

President Joe Biden has returned to Delaware dozens of times since occupying the White House. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID LIENEMANN/ BIDEN CAMPAIGN

“My family’s values, my eternal optimism and my unwavering belief in the American middle class as our nation’s backbone comes from my home – from Delaware,” he said in a statement announcing the pick. “That’s why there is no better place for our re-election campaign to have its headquarters. This election will be about standing up for those values. Vice President Harris and I are proud for our campaign team to call Wilmington home while we all fight to finish the job for the American people.”

Biden has been no stranger to Delaware since occupying the White House two and a half years ago, returning back to his home state about 74 times for more than 150 days, according to CBS journalist Mark Knoller, who tracks presidential statistics.

Those visits have largely been constrained to his homes near Greenville and Rehoboth Beach, and services at his local Catholic parishes. The Bidens have ventured out occasionally to local restaurants like Banks’ Seafood Kitchen and The Quoin in Wilmington, shopping at Jos. A Bank or playing golf at Fieldstone or Wilmington golf clubs.

Gov. John Carney said he was “honored” that the president decided to bring his campaign home.

“Our state’s largest city has so much to offer – from award-winning restaurants to new startup businesses to beautiful parks and walking trails – and we look forward to welcoming the President’s team to Wilmington. Delaware has always had Joe’s back – and he’s always had ours. We’re ready to help re-elect President Biden for his second term.”

While Philadelphia may have hosted his campaign headquarters in his successful run in 2020, Wilmington became his de facto campaign home following the onset of the COVID pandemic. Many of the staffers and Secret Service agents moved to downtown Wilmington for the last six months or so of the campaign.

In August 2020, the virtual Democratic National Convention was quickly reorganized to the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington, where Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate. Three months later, local party supporters filled the parking lots between Frawley Stadium and the convention center to see Biden accept the White House.

Afterward, the Queen theater in Wilmington was home to Biden’s videoconference events for his transition period and staffers filed downtown restaurants like Bardea and Stitch House Brewery.

The arrival of dozens of campaign staffers to Wilmington will likely mean additional extended-stay rentals for apartments, additional bookings for the city’s hotels, and uptick in reservations at local restaurants and orders for catering, among other economic impacts. It will also draw some media exposure to Delaware and help introduce a wider audience to what the city offers. 

According to federal campaign filings to date, only seven staffers are on the campaign payroll as of the end of June, but that is expected to growing greatly as the calendar turns to the new year and a Republican challenger is established. In comparison, Hillary Clinton had about 600 staffers on her 2016 presidential campaign.

Jen Boes, executive director of the Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau, told Delaware Business Times that members of her direct-marketing organization have been discussing the possibility of a campaign headquarters here for much of the last year. 

“I think that it’s a great deal of economic potential and now that the news is official, we’ve got to get to planning,” she said. “Whereas leisure travel bounced back relatively quickly in New Castle County, our business travel still hasn’t come back to what it was pre-COVID, and this is going to help fill that gap for sure.”

When staffers came to Wilmington in 2020, Boes said the GWCVB prepared a welcome guide that was a shortened version of its visitors guide, highlighting accommodations, restaurants and attractions to see while in town. She also noted that the visitors center opened last month at the Riverfront in Wilmington, where many of the city’s hotels are located, would also grow in importance.

“The timing on that could not have been better,” she said.

Wilmington, which had begun to see an uptick in larger meetings and conventions right before COVID struck, will also get a chance to show off its capabilities for a national audience with the campaign headquarters coming here, Boes said. The city has already seen a few events bringing several hundred attendees book spaces in recent months, but this could be an additional shot in the arm, she noted.

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