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 BustosHouse GOP campaign arm mocks Democrats after stumbling upon internal info on races Julián Castro endorses Rep. Cuellar's primary opponent in Texas Vulnerable Democrats fret over surging Sanders 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 Devi HarrisBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. House passes historic legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime 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 GillibrandNow is the time for a US data protection agency The Hill's Campaign Report: Warren up, Bloomberg down after brutal debate Ginsburg, accepting lifetime achievement award, urges working fathers to take an active role in kids' lives 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 BookerDemocrats' Obama-to-Sanders shift on charter schooling This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Juan Williams: Black votes matter 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 TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes 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 CruzSteyer calls for Senate term limits to pass gun control legislation Cruz targets California governor over housing 'prescriptions' This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime 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 SandersDNC warns campaigns about cybersecurity after attempted scam Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Biden looks to shore up lead in S.C. MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. Hillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Push for national popular vote movement gets boost from conservatives 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 BidenBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. Hillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket 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.”