New Dem Campaign Chief Wants Pair Of Close-Call Candidates To Run Again

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 4: Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., speaks with reporters in the Capitol on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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December 11, 2018 6:00 a.m.
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The new head of House Democrats’ efforts to retain their newfound majority made it clear she’s not content to just play defense in 2020 — and had a pair of candidates in mind to help her party expand the map who fell just short in 2018.

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), the newly elected head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that she hoped both Minnesota’s Dan Feehan and Illinois’ Betsy Dirksen Londrigan run again after losing close races last month.

“I hope they both run,” she told TPM in a brief sit-down in her office Monday afternoon.

Feehan lost a hotly contested race in a southern Minnesota district to Rep.-elect Jim Hagedorn (R-MN) by 1,300 votes, one of only two seats Republicans flipped this past election, in a formerly swing district that President Obama carried twice but President Trump won by almost 15 points in 2016.

Londrigan also came up just short in bid against Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) in a traditionally swing district that had trended towards the GOP in recent years. The close call was driven by heavy turnout in the district’s two Democratic strongholds, the state capitol of Springfield and the college town of Champaign. The result came as something of a surprise — Davis himself hadn’t expected a close race just months before the election, and national strategists in both parties didn’t have the race at the top of their target lists on election day.

“If you look at what they started as candidates and where they ended up as candidates, the message to people back home is that’s where they’re going to start. Literally they came what, within a point or less of winning? On day one, when they announce their candidacy, it will be exactly where they were toward the end of that campaign when they were two-ish years into it,” Bustos said. “They’ll be great candidates. And then they’ll just continue to grow. So those are two that I hope we’ll have an opportunity to pick up in two years.”

Bustos said she’s known Londrigran’s family for decades — their fathers were “very close friends.”

Both Londrigan and Feehan fell just short in rural-leaning Midwestern districts won by Trump — similar places to what Bustos represents.

Bustos is still settling into the job — literally. She, like many members, is in the midst of packing up her offices to set up new space, and boxes scattered her official office. She still hasn’t had a chance to talk one-on-one with dozens of the new members from tough districts, but is eager to get to know the people whose job she has of helping win reelection.

“We’ve got a great incoming freshman class. It’s diverse from all perspectives, from occupational perspectives, experience, gender, race, all of that,” she said.

Bustos conceded that there would be a “learning curve” for the numerous freshmen who’ve never held elected office before, and told them to never forget their bosses “are the people back home.”

“We’ll learn as much from them as they can from people who’ve been out here a long time,” she said.

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