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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 BustosCalls grow for Democrats to ramp up spending in Texas House Democrats target Hispanic voters in battlegrounds with new barrage of ads Republican fears grow over rising Democratic tide 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 YoungDemocrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade Coordinated federal leadership is needed for recovery of US travel and tourism Alaska may select our next president MORE (R) is seeking reelection; $1.4 million in five Montana markets, where Rep. Greg GianforteGregory Richard GianfortePandemic politics dominate competitive governor's races The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump takes early victory lap, rips off mask Pence seeks to boost Daines in critical Montana Senate race MORE (R) is running for governor; and almost $1 million in the Cincinnati area, where Rep. Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotDemocrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade Republican fears grow over rising Democratic tide Speaker Pelosi, House Democrats leave town, fail the American people MORE (R) faces an unexpectedly tough reelection bid.

Democrats are increasingly bullish on Hiral Tipirneni, a physician who is challenging Rep. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertDemocrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade Healthcare, retirement security seen as top issues for older voters, lawmakers say The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base 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.