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Two lawmakers announce bids to succeed Bustos at DCCC

Two lawmakers announce bids to succeed Bustos at DCCC
© Greg Nash

Two Democrats on Monday night quickly jumped into the race to replace the party’s House campaign chief, 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, who said hours earlier she would not seek a second term after Democrats suffered a disappointing election night.

Reps. Tony Cárdenas (Calif.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.) both informed colleagues that they are running to be chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for the 2022 cycle. 

The closed-door, secret-ballot leadership elections are set for next week.

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Others said to be eyeing the race include Reps. Linda Sánchez (Calif.), a former Democratic caucus vice chair and former Hispanic Caucus chair; and Marc VeaseyMarc Allison VeaseyNew 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  Bipartisan lawmakers back carbon capture with new legislation  MORE (D-Texas). Some Democrats had floated the name of another Texas Democrat, Rep. Colin Allred, but Allred is vying for caucus leadership representative, and his office said he's not running for DCCC chair.

In recent days, allies had been urging Cárdenas, a talented fundraiser who has run the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s campaign arm BOLD PAC, to drop out of a three-way race for assistant Speaker and jump into the contest to lead the DCCC. The former Los Angeles city councilman and state lawmaker is seen as someone who could help Democrats address lost ground with Hispanic voters in places including the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and Miami-Dade County in south Florida.

Cárdenas said that during his six years leading BOLD PAC, the super PAC helped boost the number of Hispanic members of Congress from 25 to 40 and raise more than $30 million. Democrats will need all the help they can get in 2022, a midterm cycle when the party of the incumbent president has historically suffered big losses in Congress. 

“The upcoming midterm elections will not be easy and I won’t sugarcoat the truth — it will be a hell of a fight — but families in all corners of America are counting on us to win again in two years and I refuse to let them or this Caucus down,” Cárdenas wrote his colleagues Monday night. “This fight will be an enormous responsibility I humbly embrace because I am confident that I have the experience, commitment, and passion needed to lead us successfully over the finish line.”

Maloney brings his own unique brand to the race. Also a prolific fundraiser, the lumberjack’s son has a proven knack for winning reelection in a conservative-leaning district that sided with President TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE in 2016. In his letter to colleagues, Maloney touted that experience, as well as the diversity that he brings to the leadership post as a member of the LGBT Caucus.

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“I won my first election by beating a Republican incumbent and have won reelection five times, outperforming the top of the ticket each time,” he wrote. “I did all this as a married gay man with an interracial family — the first, and until 2020 only, openly LGBTQ person ever elected to Congress in New York.”

Maloney has demonstrated interest in the post previously, weighing a run against then-DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján (N.M.) after the 2016 cycle, which put Trump in the White House. Maloney ultimately declined to enter the race and instead took on the responsibility of leading the party’s review of campaign messaging and strategy — a process that Democratic leaders have launched again this year. 

Maloney’s own 2020 race has not yet been called. But he leads his GOP opponent with roughly 80 percent of the votes counted, and the remaining ballots are largely mail-ins, thought to lean toward Democrats in a cycle when Trump had warned supporters that voting via the Postal Service would encourage fraud. 

Cárdenas’s shift to the DCCC race leaves a two-way race for assistant Speaker between Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkDemocratic scramble complicates Biden's human infrastructure plan Child care advocates seek to lock down billion in new federal funding Pelosi says House will move immediately on COVID-19 relief MORE (Mass.), the Democratic Caucus vice chair, and Rep. David CicillineDavid CicillineRepublicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld Washington keeps close eye as Apple antitrust fight goes to court Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube execs to testify at Senate hearing on algorithms | Five big players to watch in Big Tech's antitrust fight MORE (R.I.), who heads the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC).

Next week, when lawmakers return to Washington, Democrats will also hold elections for a handful of other contested leadership posts, including DPCC and caucus vice chair.

--Updated on Nov. 10 at 10:54 a.m.