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Cheri Bustos Joins Race for Assistant Democratic Leader

Sets up contest that could show diversity of House Democratic caucus next year

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., has joined the race for assistant Democratic leader. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., has joined the race for assistant Democratic leader. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Cheri Bustos has formally announced she wants to move up in House Democratic leadership, setting up a contested race with candidates from different parts of the caucus.

The Illinois Democrat said her candidacy for assistant Democratic leader will focus on efforts to support the most vulnerable members of the House Democratic caucus, and that will include significant support for new staff.

“I will form a one-stop-shop with battle-tested and experienced staff to guide new Chiefs of Staff, Legislative Directors, Communications Directors and District Directors,” Bustos wrote in a Dear Colleague letter obtained by the Quad-City Times. “We will work with them to prepare and execute customized, strategic plans to hit the ground running both in Washington and at home.”

Bustos’ announcement of candidacy had been expected, and she discussed her plans Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“The voice that I hope to bring to that leadership table as we move forward is it’s not enough just to win back the majority … but we’ve got to keep the majority,” Bustos said. “That’s the kind of experience that I hope that my colleagues would say that I could bring to the leadership table.”

Bustos stressed in the MSNBC interview, and in her letter, that the focus for the next month needs to be on winning seats to get the majority.

“Throughout this cycle, I have traveled for and mentored scores of our incredible candidates. Not only will I continue to help them win during these next five weeks, if elected, I promise to also help them achieve lasting success in office so we can maintain a Democratic majority for the long haul,” wrote Bustos, who represents much of the northwest part of Illinois.

Rep. David Cicilline, who has been a Democratic Policy and Communications Committee co-chair alongside Bustos, announced his candidacy for the same job in his own Dear Colleague letter circulated last Thursday.

Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, comes from the Progressive Caucus and would bring a decidedly different background and perspective to the role.

“In Committee and on the Floor, I’ve proven that I can go toe-to-toe with the other side of the aisle and that I won’t back down,” he wrote. “As a former mayor of a major city, I have the skills that are necessary to build coalitions and deliver results. And as one of only six openly LGBT members of the House, I believe it is crucial that our leadership team represent and reflect the diversity and strength of the Democratic Party.”

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