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House Democratic campaign leader predicts bigger majority

House Democratic campaign leader predicts bigger majority
© Greg Nash

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chairwoman Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosFive centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker AOC v. Pelosi: Round 12? MORE (D-Ill.) said Thursday her party is likely to add to its majority in Congress next year, and that the party is eyeing long-held Republican seats in states such as Alaska, Indiana and Montana.

In an interview for The Hill’s Big Questions series, Bustos said Democrats have taken aim at 31 Republican-held seats this year, a number that is likely to expand in the 10 weeks before Election Day. 

“My prediction as we sit here is we will not only hold on to this Democratic majority, we will grow it,” Bustos said. “We’ve got the right candidates and resources, and we are ready to mobilize even in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.”

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Democrats recaptured the House majority in the 2018 midterm elections on the strength of female candidates running in largely suburban districts. Bustos on Thursday pointed to women who have won Democratic nominations in 26 of the 31 districts the party is targeting this year.

The DCCC has reserved $36 million in airtime in television markets that cover both the Republican-held seats and the 42 most vulnerable Democrats. The party’s recent reservations include about $500,000 in Alaska, where Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungHouse Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Five Republicans vote for bill to decriminalize marijuana House passes sweeping reform bill to decriminalize marijuana MORE (R) is seeking reelection; $1.4 million in five Montana markets, where Rep. Greg GianforteGregory Richard GianforteGrowing number of House Republicans warm to proxy voting Ducey to lead Republican governors GOP holds line in state legislatures, dealing blow to Democrats MORE (R) is running for governor; and almost $1 million in the Cincinnati area, where Rep. Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Top GOP lawmaker touts 'more flexible' PPP loans in bipartisan proposal MORE (R) faces an unexpectedly tough reelection bid.

Democrats are increasingly bullish on Hiral Tipirneni, a physician who is challenging Rep. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit House GOP proposed rules change sparks concern MORE (R-Ariz.) in the Phoenix suburbs. The DCCC has blocked off $1.1 million for two weeks of ads in the Phoenix market. 

Bustos said the global coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally altered the way Democrats are campaigning for office this year. Out are the hours of ringing doorbells and canvassing, the usual staples of persuading and mobilizing key voters. Campaigns are instead using their resources to distribute water bottles and personal protective equipment, or conducting wellness checks on older residents.

“Early on, we recruited doctors, we recruited combat veterans, public health advocates, people who are uniquely suited to run during this crisis,” Bustos said. “In some cases, [candidates] have turned their campaign structure into public service structures, so to speak.”

Democrats have launched a virtual action center, an online portal through which volunteers can host virtual texting parties or phone banks.

“We cannot safely go out knocking doors. There’s a huge risk to that, and we want to make sure that we are respectful of people’s health,” she said.