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Bustos won't seek to chair DCCC again in wake of 2020 results

Bustos won't seek to chair DCCC again in wake of 2020 results
© Greg Nash

Illinois Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosDemocrats confront difficult prospects for midterms Democrat Cheri Bustos to retire from Congress GOP campaign chief confident his party will win back House MORE will not run for a second term leading House Democrats' campaign arm following a disappointing election where her party saw at least seven vulnerable incumbents go down to defeat.

In a statement Monday, Bustos confirmed that she would not run for chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for the 2022 cycle, saying that the party would be in good hands next year with a House majority and Joe BidenJoe BidenKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' US officials testify on domestic terrorism in wake of Capitol attack MORE in the White House.

“For the first time in a decade, our Caucus will serve in a House Majority with a Democratic President. After four years of this Administration’s chaos and broken promises, there is now no limit to what we can achieve as we work to Build Back Better for the communities we serve," Bustos said.

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“That is why, rather than seek a second term as Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, I will instead focus my work on exciting legislative possibilities in the years to come," she continued. "As a member of the House Appropriations and Agriculture committees, I am well-positioned to turn my focus to strengthening infrastructure and health care in the cities, small towns and rural areas I serve.”

Bustos’s announcement came following a disastrous cycle for House Democrats. 

Heading into last week’s elections, party leaders had predicted they would pick up seats in the lower chamber, padding their majority in anticipation of a tough cycle in 2022, when the party of the incumbent president historically suffers big losses in Congress. Explaining their bullishness, they cited a sharp fundraising advantage over the Republicans, a liberal base energized by President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote READ: Liz Cheney's speech on the House floor Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' MORE at the top of the ticket and polls showing Democrats running competitive races even deep into Trump country.

Instead, Democrats saw at least seven of their incumbents picked off by GOP challengers, and of the 38 Republican-held districts they’d targeted most aggressively — the so called “red-to-blue” districts — they’ve picked up only one seat, left vacant by retiring Rep. Rob WoodallWilliam (Rob) Robert WoodallMcCarthy guarantees GOP will take back House in 2022 Rundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day Bustos won't seek to chair DCCC again in wake of 2020 results MORE (Ga.). As of Monday afternoon, not a single Republican running for reelection had been defeated, although almost two dozen races remain outstanding. 

With expectations so high, Democrats began the finger-pointing almost immediately — and Bustos became an early target.  

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The four-term lawmaker represents a district won by Trump in 2016, and despite a blow-out victory in the 2018 midterms, she squeaked to victory this year with the president on the ballot.

Some Democratic lawmakers grumbled that Bustos received a late, $1 million cash infusion from the House Majority PAC to lend her a boost in the final days. Her critics think that money should have gone to other vulnerable Democratic incumbents and candidates vying to pick off GOP seats.

"That's what's riled up members. You're the DCCC chair [and] you're having to be bailed out instead of protecting other members or candidates that we could have won," said a former Democratic leadership aide.

"In their minds, even if she's OK [this year], this next cycle is going to be a tough cycle. And is it going to be the same? In a good year she had to protect herself, and sort-of left the battlefield.”

Republicans in Bustos’s own backyard piled on. 

“I’m not surprised by Cheri quitting as DCCC chair.  I have never seen someone so publicly confident on election morning lose so many races,” said GOP Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisCapitol Police watchdog calls for boosting countersurveillance House Republicans request hearing with Capitol Police Board for first time since 1945 Bipartisan lawmakers weigh in on post-pandemic health care costs MORE, who serves with Bustos in the Illinois delegation and whose seat Bustos had targeted. “The DCCC chair should know what is happening on the ground in every competitive district, but she was blinded by her own ambition and came close to being defeated herself.”

Bustos’s decision to call it quits came just days after a post-election Democratic caucus conference call went off the rails, as moderates accused the party’s far-left wing of imperiling centrist lawmakers in tough districts by pushing an agenda that included policies such as defunding the police and the Green New Deal. Progressives fired back, arguing that it was their agenda that had mobilized the party base, paving the way for Biden’s victory over Trump.

Bustos, on the call, had expressed frustration at both the loss of incumbents and internal polls that had led the campaign arm astray. She vowed to conduct a deep-dive into what went wrong, but also cheered the fact that Democrats had maintained their House majority in the next Congress.

“We protected the lone firewall in our democracy,” Bustos said. 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Job openings jump to record high of 8.1 million | Wyden opposes gas tax hike | Airlines feel fuel crunch Pelosi: House Democrats want to make child tax credit expansion permanent Pelosi announces change to House floor mask rules MORE (D-Calif.), who had also entered Election Day forecasting Democratic gains, praised Bustos on Monday as “a leader of great integrity and inspiration.” 

“Strengthened by the values of the heartland, Chairwoman Bustos shaped a mainstream message, mobilized effectively and attracted the resources to do so,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Chairwoman Bustos brought strategic thinking, political astuteness and boundless stamina to Hold The House, with the added challenge of the coronavirus.”

Democrats last week were already trying to draft Rep. Tony CardenasAntonio (Tony) CardenasMORE (Calif.), the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s campaign arm, BOLD PAC, to run for DCCC chair. 

Other Democrats taking a look at the top campaign post include Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), who dropped out of the DCCC race in 2018 due to an illness; Rep. Linda SanchezLinda Teresa SánchezRep. Sanchez: Not appropriate for reporters to see inside border facilities for children Democrats move smaller immigration bills while eyeing broad overhaul Biden should emphasize immigration enforcement MORE (Calif.), a former Democratic Caucus vice chair and former Hispanic Caucus chair; and Rep. Marc VeaseyMarc Allison VeaseyHouse fails to pass drug bill amid Jan. 6 tensions New signs of progress emerge on police reform OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Native groups hope Haaland's historic confirmation comes with tribal wins | EPA asks court to nix Trump rule limiting GHG regs | Green group asks regulators to block use of utility customers' money for lobbying  MORE (Texas).

—Juliegrace Brufke contributed. Updated at 4:21 p.m.