WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos was elected chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on a first-ballot vote Thursday.
Illinois' 17th District representative beat out Rep. Denny Heck and Rep. Suzan DelBene, both Washington Democrats, for the key Democratic Caucus leadership role. Bustos had 117 votes, followed by Heck with 83 and DelBene with 32.
Another candidate for the job, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, was forced to drop out of the race because of illness. Bustos was nominated by another Illinois congresswoman, Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Chicago.
As DCCC chairwoman, Bustos will focus on retaining and expanding the Democratic majority in the 2020 election cycle.
She has held several other committee leadership positions in the last 4 years. In this year's election cycle, she was chairwoman of Heartland Engagement, serving as a mentor for candidates in 12 states. Also in 2018, Bustos was co-chairwoman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, where she worked to develop the House Democrats' "For the People" agenda.
Her ability to win in Republican strongholds has made Bustos a hot commodity as the party looks to replicate her success in other areas carried 2 years ago by President Donald Trump. Democrats gained at least 39 seats in this year’s midterms – at least half of which were in districts won by Trump.
“Over the next 2 years, our charge is to build on this progress to fortify our new Democratic majority so we can deliver bold change for the American people," Bustos said in a news release.
"We will do this by placing a new emphasis on incumbent protection while going on offense in the districts where we came up short this year – we must do both,"
One of her first priorities will be to find out if Democrats who narrowly lost this year plan to run again, Bustos said. She also wants the party to keep its eye on "For the People", the party's slogan that was rolled out ahead of the midterm elections. The agenda is based on health care, increased wages and ethics reform.
“As Democrats, we are going to keep our focus on getting real results for the American people by lowering their health care costs, raising their wages and cracking down on the corruption we’ve seen from Washington Republicans," Bustos said.
While winning back the House is a good start, the committee says Democrats also must win back the White House and Senate to make good on its promises.
Bustos initially planned to run for a different leadership position. In early October, she announced that if Democrats regained a majority in the House she would make a bid for assistant Democratic leader, the fourth-highest party leadership role in the House.
She and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island decided to withdraw when DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico decided to run. Luján was elected to that post Wednesday with no opposition.
On Nov. 9, Bustos announced her intention of running for the DCCC leadership post, saying that it was an opportunity to continue the work she had started during the midterms, while bringing the voice of a woman and Midwesterner to the leadership table.
Bustos won a fourth term in the 17th District on Nov. 6 by defeating Bill Fawell of Galena by 24 points, the largest margin of victory of any Democrat from a district won by Trump. There will be 62 new Democrats coming to the House, 31 who come from Trump districts.
In addition to winning a fourth term in the 17th District, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos served as a mentor for other Democratic candidates during the 2018 midterm election cycle. Here are some of her campaigning accomplishments:
• Traveled more than 21,000 miles to 11 states to support dozens of candidates.
• Raised nearly $3 million to support candidates in the midterms.
• Raised more than $1.5 million in contributions for Frontline and Red to Blue candidates.
• Contributed more than $500,000 to 100 candidates, 17 members of Congress, and political action committees.
• Paid $600,000 to the DCCC in dues – more than is required of the committee chairman.
• Raised more than $630,000 for the DCCC.
• Spent thousands of hours recruiting and mentoring candidates running in tough races. Sixteen of those candidates won their races.
• Led the development of the House Democrats’ “For the People” agenda, the foundation for the party's midterm election message.