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Rep. Cheri Bustos, an Illinois Democrat, wins race to be new DCCC chair

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., who is running for DCCC chair, talks to reporters Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. | Photo by Lynn Sweet

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., talks to reporters Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, about her DCCC run. / Photo by Lynn Sweet

WASHINGTON –– Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., won her bid Thursday to be the new chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Bustos takes over the DCCC, the main Democratic House political operation, in the wake of House Democrats winning 40 seats in November, giving Democrats control of the House when the new Congress is sworn-in on Jan. 3.

Bustos’ challenge will be to recruit candidates and help raise the money needed for Democrats to keep the House in 2020. The spot puts Bustos in the national spotlight. Bustos weighed a 2016 run for Illinois senator, but instead, decided to stay in the House and start a bid to climb the leadership ladder.

“Over the next two years, our charge is to build on this progress to fortify our new Democratic Majority so we can deliver bold change for the American people. We will do this by placing a new emphasis on incumbent protection while going on offense in the districts where we came up short this year – we must do both,” Bustos said in a statement.

“As Democrats, we are going to keep our focus on getting real results for the American people by lowering their health care costs, raising their wages and cracking down on the corruption we’ve seen from Washington Republicans. While I am hopeful that we can make some progress in this next Congress, we need to win back the White House and the Senate while defending our House Majority to completely deliver on our promise. Failure is simply not an option, we will protect this house.”

Bustos represents the 17th congressional district, which takes in central and northwestern Illinois. First elected in 2012, Bustos has gained a national profile by being a Democrat able to win in a district where President Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016. In 2018, Bustos won re-election with a 24 percent margin, the biggest of any House member running in a Trump district. She has been mentored along the way by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill,. and grew up in politics. Her father, the late Gene Callahan, was a close Durbin friend and a political adviser to former Illinois Democratic Senators Paul Simon and Alan Dixon.

Fundraising is a major component of the DCCC job and Bustos put together a persuasive campaign cash argument for her colleagues that she has already delivered. According to Bustos’ office, she raised and gave  nearly $3 million to support candidates this cycle. She also traveled to 11 states to bolster “dozens” of 2016 House candidates.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former House member who served as the DCCC chair for the 2006 election when Democrats seized the House from Republicans –– and who is formidable fundraiser –– told the Sun-Times he called Bustos to congratulate her. “I’ve already said to her, if you need anything, you got me,” Emanuel said.

Bustos, at first, had her eye on the number four House leadership spot, but shifted to running for DCCC chair after the current DCCC chair, Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, claimed that Assistant Democratic Leader slot after leading the drive to flip the House.

Bustos has held various other DCCC leadership posts over the past four years, a time where she has entered the inner circles of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

She won on the first ballot and with many Illinois Democrats working for her election, among them Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Brad Schneider, Bobby Rush and Dan Lipinski –– members, who by the way, represent the various ideological alignments within the Democratic family.

Lipinski said in an email, “This is very good for Illinois and for House Democrats because Cheri represents a Trump district and understands what it takes to win seats in these districts. This will be invaluable to Lauren Underwood and Sean Casten as well as all the other new Democratic members who unseated Republicans in this election.”

Illinois delegation notes

Quigley on Cohen: Following Michael Cohen’s guilty plea on Thursday for lying to Congress, Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., said Cohen and Roger Stone, an informal Trump campaign advisor, need to testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Quigley, a member of the panel told the Sun-Times in a statement, “Cohen’s plea highlights what we’ve known on the House Intelligence Committee for quite some time: several of our witnesses were untruthful in their testimonies.”

Gutierrez farewell address:  Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the first Hispanic elected to Congress from Illinois,  delivered his farewell address to Congress on Thursday. The Chicago Democrat will step down in January after serving in the House for 26 years.

Gutierrez noted in his remarks the changing nature of his district, which takes in Chicago’s Hispanic populations on the North and South sides of the city. “When the 4th District was created to give Latinos in Chicago an opportunity to have a voice in Congress, I was the first to win the seat. And while the majority of my constituents then –– about 65% –– were Latino, but on Election Day, the majority of voters were white.”

Said Gutierrez, “My work for America, her immigrants, and the character of our great nation is not done.”