1984 Democratic National Convention
1984 presidential election
Mondale and Ferraro
Date(s)July 16–19, 1984
CitySan Francisco, California
VenueMoscone Center
Keynote speakerMario Cuomo
Presidential nomineeWalter Mondale of
Vice presidential nomineeGeraldine Ferraro of
New York
‹ 1980 · 1988 ›
The Moscone Center was the site of the 1984 Democratic National Convention

The 1984 Democratic National Convention was held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California from July 16 to July 19, 1984, to select candidates for the 1984 United States presidential election. Former Vice President Walter Mondale was nominated for president and Representative Geraldine Ferraro of New York was nominated for vice president. Ferraro became the first woman to be nominated by either major party for the presidency or vice presidency. In another first, the 1984 Democratic Convention was chaired by the female governor of Kentucky, Martha Layne Collins.[1] The Democratic National Committee Chairman at the time, Charles T. Manatt, led the convention.

Site selection

Finalist bid cities
City Venue Previous major party conventions hosted by city
Chicago, Illinois McCormick Place[2] Democratic: 1864, 1884, 1892, 1896, 1932, 1940, 1944, 1952, 1956, 1968
Republican: 1860, 1868, 1880, 1884, 1888, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1916, 1920, 1932, 1944, 1952, 1960
Detroit, Michigan Joe Louis Arena and Cobo Hall[3] Republican: 1980
New York City, New York Madison Square Garden[4] Democratic: 1868, 1924, 1976, 1980
San Francisco, California Moscone Center[5] Democratic: 1920
Republican: 1956,** 1964**
Washington, D.C. Washington Convention Center[5]
**Conventions held in Daly City, California, a municipality adjacent to San Francisco
Preliminary bid cities (non-finalist)[6]
City Venue Previous major party conventions hosted by city
Houston, Texas Astrodome Democratic: 1928
Kansas City, Missouri Democratic: 1900
Republican: 1928, 1976
Miami Beach, Florida Democratic: 1972
Republican: 1968, 1972
New Orleans, Louisiana Louisiana Superdome
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Democratic: 1936, 1948
Republican: 1856, 1872, 1900, 1940, 1948
Whig: 1848
Seattle, Washington Kingdome

As of March 1982, the Democratic Party was preliminarily considering ten cities: Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Miami Beach, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle.[6] By the time that a vote was held for where to hold the convention, the contenders were Chicago, Detroit, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.[5]

Party officials told cities interested in hosting the convention that they needed to provide at least 250,000 work space, a convention hall seating 20,000, 20,000 high-quality hotel rooms, and a $2.5 million financial commitment (to fund the staging of the convention hall, housing of staff, security, transportation, and other needs)[7]

San Francisco was broadly considered the front-runner to receive the convention. This was, in large part, due to the fact that the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Charles Manatt, was a Californian,[5][8] and heavily supported San Francisco's bid.[4] Mannatt argued that locating a convention in California could be wise for Democrats with an eye to the general election in the state, since California was a state that had a 5–3 Democratic advantage in party registration but which had voted Republican for the past several presidential elections.[9] California's largest city, Los Angeles (Mannatt's home city) was logistically unavailable to host the 1984 convention due to its hosting of 1984 Summer Olympics.[7] Then-California State Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Pelosi was another strong booster of San Francisco's bid.[9][10] San Francisco's proposed venue, its new downtown Moscone Center convention center, had 650,000 square feet of space, and promised to be capable of seating 20,000 conventiongoers.[5] Additionally considered positives for San Francisco's prospects of hosting the convention was that California was the state with the most votes in the Electoral College, and it had a female mayor (Dianne Feinstein).[5] Some considered a concern disadvantaging San Francisco's bid to be the prospect that splinter groups might put on disruptive demonstrations during the convention if it were held in San Francisco.[11] Particularly of concern was the prospect that San Francisco's large population of homosexuals might "embarrass" the Democratic Party by holding a large gay rights demonstration during the convention.[8] Another factor speculated to disadvantage San Francisco's bid was the small size of its police force.[11]

Chicago's biggest disadvantage was regarded to be the memory of disorder during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in the city.[5][7] This was Chicago's first serious attempt to receiving the hosting rights to a major party nominating convention since the 1968 DNC.[5]

Early into Detroit's bid, the suburban Silverdome stadium was floated as a potential venue.[6] However, the city's final bid placed the convention in Joe Louis Arena and Cobo Hall.[3]

The bid of New York City, the host of the previous two Democratic National Conventions, was considered to be hampered by a disinterest by Democratic Party officials in holding a third consecutive convention there.[7] Madison Square Garden had also been seen during the previous two conventions as being somewhat undersized in its amount of usable area, and the 1984 convention was to feature more delegates than previous conventions had.[4]

Washington, D.C.'s bid was the city's first attempt to receive the hosting rights to a major party nominating convention.[4] This came after the city opened a new convention center, giving it a facility capable of potentially accommodating a major party nominating convention.[5]

On April 23, 1983, San Francisco was awarded hosting rights to the convention, receiving 23 out of 27 votes on second-ballot vote by the Democratic Party's site selection committee. The city had fallen one vote short of securing the needed majority vote of the 27-member committee on the first ballot.[5]

This marked the second time that a Democratic National Convention had been held in the city of San Francisco, with the 1920 edition having been held at the city's Civic Auditorium.[12] It was the party's third convention to be held in the state of California, after the 1920 convention and the 1960 convention in Los Angeles.[5] This also marked the first Democratic National Convention to be hosted on the West Coast of the United States since 1960.[5] The Democrats' choice of San Francisco, paired with the Republican Party's earlier selection of Dallas, Texas for their 1984 convention, meant that, for the second time ever (after only the 1928 United States presidential election), both the Democratic and Republican parties hosted their nominating conventions in cities west of the Mississippi River.[5]

Site selection committee vote[5][11]
City Round 1 Round 2
San Francisco, California 13 23
Chicago, Illinois 3 2
Detroit, Michigan 4 1
San Francisco, California 2 1
Washington, D.C. 5 0


The convention was the first to utilize the rule changes recommended by the Hunt Commission in response to the protracted 1980 Democratic Party presidential primaries between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy, including the use of superdelegates.[13]

The San Francisco Hilton served as the convention's headquarters hotel.[14] It had previously been the headquarters hotel of the 1964 Republican National Convention.[5]

Nancy Pelosi served as chair of the convention's host committee.[15]

The convention cost in excess of $20 million to stage. $9 million was provided by the City of San Francisco's government itself.[15]

Events of the Convention

Convention hall during Ferraro's vice presidential nomination acceptance speech

Walter Mondale was nominated for president and Geraldine Ferraro was nominated for vice president.

New York Governor Mario Cuomo gave a well-received keynote speech. Mondale's major rivals for the presidential nomination, Senator Gary Hart and Rev. Jesse Jackson, also gave speeches.

Jackson's speech referred to the nation as a "quilt" with places for "[t]he white, the Hispanic, the black, the Arab, the Jew, the woman, the Native American, the small farmer, the business person, the environmentalist, the peace activist, the young, the old, the lesbian, the gay, and the disabled".[16] It was the first time anyone mentioned lesbians and gays in a national convention address.[17] Jackson also attempted to move the party's platform farther to the left at the convention, but without much success. He did succeed in one instance, concerning affirmative action.[18]

"AIDS poster boy" Bobbi Campbell gave a speech at the National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights, dying of AIDS complications a month later.[19]


The following candidates had their names placed in nomination


Before the convention had convened, Mondale was widely regarded as having secured the prerequisite delegate support to clinch the nomination.[12] However, he only attained this amount of delegate support with the inclusion of superdelegates that supported his candidacy. His number of pledged delegates (those bound to him and awarded through primaries) alone did not give him enough of a lead to win the nomination without superdelegate support.[12] His number of pledged delegates heading into the convention was 40 shy of the 1,967 needed to win the nomination.[20][21]

Keron Kerr, an uncommitted delegate from Maine and secretary of the Maine Democratic Party, voted for U.S. Senator Joe Biden. She first considered voting for him after seeing him speak at the 1983 Maine Democratic state convention and decided to support him after his speech at the DNC. Kerr later served as a state coordinator for Biden's 1988 presidential campaign.[22]

The candidates for U.S. president received the following numbers of delegates:

Democratic National Convention presidential vote, 1984[23]
Candidate Votes Percentage
Walter Mondale 2,191 56.41%
Gary Hart 1,201 30.92%
Jesse Jackson 466 12.00%
Thomas Eagleton 18 0.46%
George McGovern 4 0.10%
John Glenn 2 0.05%
Joe Biden 1 0.03%
Martha Kirkland 1 0.03%
Totals 3,884 100.00%

Jesse Jackson had unsuccessfully called for the suspension of the party's electoral rules to give him a number of delegates closer to the 20% average share of the vote he garnered during the primaries. The system tended to punish shallow showings as yielding no delegates at all, hence Jackson's smaller delegate count than would be expected (12%).[18]

Vice president

For the pick of Vice President of the United States, Mondale had a pick between Mayor Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco (the future 3 decade United States Senator from California) and Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro of New York, he chose Congresswoman Ferraro to be his vice presidential running mate, which established her as the first woman to be nominated for Vice President of the United States from a major American political party. As of 2020, this is the most recent time that neither a sitting nor former United States Senator was nominated for vice president by the Democratic Party.

See also


  1. ^ Ferraro, Geraldine (1986). Ferraro: My Story. New York: Bantam. ISBN 0-553-05110-5.
  2. ^ Locin, Mitchell; Hardy, Thomas (April 15, 1983). "Local Democratic split may hurt convention hopes". Newspapers.com. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  3. ^ a b "Detroit to bid for Dems' convention today". Newspapers.com. Detroit Free Press. February 16, 1983.
  4. ^ a b c d Sawislak, Arnold (April 21, 1983). "San Francisco". Newspapers.com. Muncie Evening Press. United Press International. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Sawislak, Arnold (April 21, 1983). "Democrats chose San Francisco today as the site of..." UPI. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  6. ^ a b c Smith, Jack Z. (March 19, 1982). "Houston considered for Democrats' '84 convention". Fort Worth Star-Telegram.:
  7. ^ a b c d "Five make bids to Democrats". Newspapers.com. Des Moines Register. The Associated Press. February 16, 1983. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  8. ^ a b McDairmid, Hugh (March 27, 1983). "Mayor's sales pitch had Godzilla's grace". Newspapers.com. Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  9. ^ a b Irving, Carl (September 28, 1982). "Supervisors back bid for convention". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 15 April 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ "'Reaganomics don't work' rated as inspiration to Democrats". The San Francisco Examiner. October 5, 1982. Retrieved 15 April 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ a b c Magnusson, Paul (April 22, 1983). "Young calls Dems' choice a 'fix'". Newspapers.com. Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  12. ^ a b c Niekerken, Bill Van (1 August 2016). "SF's 1984 Democratic convention: Historic, but not smooth". SFChronicle.com. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  13. ^ National Party Conventions: 1831-1996. Internet Archive. Washington D.C.: Congressional Quarterly. 1997. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-1-56802-280-2.
  14. ^ "Gay activist's remark riles convention panel". Newspapers.com. San Francisco Examiner. July 11, 1984. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  15. ^ a b Michelson, Herb (August 5, 1984). "Democrats left their hearts in SF but not too much of their money". The Sacramento Bee – via Newspapers.com.
  16. ^ House, Ernest R. (24 July 1988). "Jesse in 1984: Whites Wept, Blacks Frowned". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  17. ^ Reid, Joy-Ann (8 September 2015). Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide (Amazon Kindle ed.). William Morrow. p. 50. ASIN B00FJ3A98G.
  18. ^ a b "The Jackson Factor". The Economist. 1984-07-21. Retrieved 2008-08-28.
  19. ^ GLBT Historical Society (July 15, 1984). Bobbi Campbell speech (1984). YouTube. Archived from the original on 2013-10-17. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
  20. ^ Bomboy, Scott (8 June 2016). "A primer about recent convention brawls over delegates". National Constitution Center. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  21. ^ Phil Hirschkorn, "America's Last Great Convention: Mondale, Jackson & Hart Dish To Salon About Wild 1984 DNC", Salon. (February 15, 2015)
  22. ^ Collins, Steve (October 26, 2020). "In 1984, a Mainer cast the first-ever vote for Joe Biden for president". Sun Journal. Archived from the original on February 17, 2024.
  23. ^ Our Campaigns - US President - D Convention Race - Jul 16, 1984
Preceded by
New York, New York
Democratic National Conventions Succeeded by
Atlanta, Georgia