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Bustos says she has reached out to former 2020 hopefuls about boosting House Democrats

Bustos says she has reached out to former 2020 hopefuls about boosting House Democrats
© Greg Nash

Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosGOP sees chance to take out Democratic House campaign chief Energized by polls, House Democrats push deeper into GOP territory Cook Report shifts 12 House races, all but one toward Democrats MORE (D-Ill.), the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), is in talks with several of her party’s former presidential candidates about helping House Democrats in the 2020 elections.

Bustos said that she has already reached out to Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTrump fights for battleground Arizona Biden to air 90-minute radio programs targeting Black voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden's big battleground | Trump and Harris hit the trail in Arizona | Turnout surges among new voters MORE (D-Calif.) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who both dropped out of the Democratic presidential race in recent weeks. 

Another former 2020 candidate, Beto O’Rourke, who ended his campaign in November, reached out to the DCCC himself to offer his support, she said.

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“He called me shortly after he got out of the presidential and said ‘I am at your disposal. You let me know what you need from me, if I can be of help in any way,’ which is a very generous offer,” Bustos told reporters at a question-and-answer session on Thursday morning, referring to the former Texas congressman. “It means a lot, especially in Texas.”

“For Castro and Kamala ... and Beto, those are folks that I’ve invited to different things wherever it makes sense,” she said. “You bring people in where they’re going to resonate well.”

Bustos also said that she has spoken to Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOcasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' Internal Democratic poll: Desiree Tims gains on Mike Turner in Ohio House race Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter's handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns | FCC to move forward with considering order targeting tech's liability shield | YouTube expands polices to tackle QAnon MORE (D-N.Y.), but added that that conversation “was as much about softball as anything." Both Bustos and Gillibrand are on the Congressional Women’s Softball Team.

Bustos did not say whether she had spoken to Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (D-N.J.) but noted that some candidates may have reached out to other DCCC officials. 

House Democrats are largely playing defense in 2020 after picking up 43 seats in the 2018 midterm elections. Many of those seats are in districts that President TrumpDonald John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline MORE won in 2016, and Democrats see their roster of presidential candidates, both current and former, as valuable assets in down-ballot races.

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Asked whether former President Obama is planning to help House Democrats’ reelection efforts, Bustos replied: “I think he’ll get engaged when he’s ready to get engaged.”

O'Rourke, who rose to prominence during his 2018 Senate bid against Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked Tech CEOs clash with lawmakers in contentious hearing Trump announces intention to nominate two individuals to serve as FEC members MORE (R-Texas), could be a particularly valuable asset in Texas, where Democrats are eyeing a handful of House seats as potential pickup opportunities.

While he ultimately lost his 2018 Senate campaign, O'Rourke raised record amounts of money and gained near-celebrity status nationwide. He ultimately came within 3 points of defeating Cruz.

Since then, Democrats have become increasingly bullish about making inroads in Texas, a longtime Republican stronghold, arguing that demographic and political changes in the state have made it more friendly territory for their candidates.

But some of the party's presidential candidates, most notably Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOcasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' What a Biden administration should look like Ocasio-Cortez: 'Trump is the racist visionary, but McConnell gets the job done' MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWhat a Biden administration should look like Overnight Defense: Dems want hearing on DOD role on coronavirus vaccine | US and India sign data-sharing pact | American citizen kidnapped in Niger Conservative operatives Wohl, Burkman charged in Ohio over false robocalls MORE (D-Mass.), have found themselves at odds with the DCCC, which works to help Democratic House incumbents win reelection.

Sanders and Warren, the leading progressives in the presidential race, have thrown their support behind House primary challengers, including Marie Newman, who’s challenging Rep. Dan Lipinski (D) in Illinois’s 3rd District, and Jessica Cisneros, who’s challenging Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) in Texas’s 28th District.

Asked on Thursday whether she is concerned that Sanders, one of the highest-profile candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, is working against the DCCC’s interests by endorsing primary challengers, Bustos demurred.

“Bernie Sanders is going to endorse who he’s going to endorse. Elizabeth Warren is going to endorse who she’s going to endorse. Joe BidenJoe BidenHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline Overnight Defense: Trump campaign's use of military helicopter raises ethics concerns | Air Force jets intercept aircraft over Trump rally | Senators introduce bill to expand visa screenings MORE will endorse who he’s going to endorse,” Bustos said, referring to the former vice president and current front-runner in the 2020 Democratic field.

“From our perspective at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, we support House Democrats,” she continued. “That is our job to support House Democrats. We will continue to do that. But I can predict what they’re going to do and I can’t influence what they’re going to do.”