Cheri Bustos Drops Out of Assistant Leader Race to Run for DCCC Chair

Illinois Democrat’s decision avoids face-off with current DCCC chairman Luján

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., is dropping out of the assistant Democratic leader race to run for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos announced Friday that she was dropping out of the race for the next assistant Democratic leader and would instead seek to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 

“One of the greatest challenges we face in the next Congress is defending and expanding our majority,” Bustos said.

Bustos acknowledged that DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján’s decision to enter the assistant leader race influenced her decision to exit it. 

“I am withdrawing from that race because I believe Chairman Luján deserves a higher-level seat at the leadership table,” she said. The New Mexico Democrat is coming off a strong midterm election that saw the party pick up at least 30 seats so far.

Bustos said the next DCCC chair must demonstrate three qualities that she believes she has: a deep understanding of what it takes to win and hold tough districts; effective communication skills; and a proven ability to fundraise.

“As someone who represents a district that President Trump won, I understand the unique challenge of winning and holding purple or red districts,” Bustos said. “In fact, on Tuesday, I earned the largest margin of victory of any Trump-district Democrat in the nation. As we prepare in 2020 to defend as many as 33 House seats on Trump turf, this is something I already live and breathe every day of my Congressional career.”

From the Archives: Bustos Takes the Field to Talk Politics and Upcoming Democratic Stars


Bustos, who currently serves as a co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, will face competition for the DCCC role. Washington Reps. Suzan DelBene and Denny Heck have both announced their own separate bids.

All three candidates held DCCC leadership roles this cycle. Bustos served as the heartland engagement chairwoman; DelBene as finance co-chairwoman; and Heck as recruitment chairman and co-chair of the committee’s Red to Blue program for strong recruits. For the 2016 cycle, Bustos was the committee’s recruitment vice chairwoman and co-chaired the Red to Blue program with Heck. 

As the only current member of leadership from the Midwest, Bustos has stressed the importance of having more geographic diversity on the leadership team next Congress. Yet most of the candidates for leadership positions come from states on or near the coastlines. 

The only other Midwesterner currently running for a leadership position is Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell, who is running for one of the three open DPCC co-chair slots. 

Correction 6:25 p.m. | An earlier version of this story should have mentioned that Bustos was DCCC recruitment vice chairwoman and co-chair of its Red to Blue program in the 2016 cycle. 

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