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Cheri Bustos won’t run for reelection in 2022

As head of Democrats' campaign arm in 2020, her party lost seats

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., seen here at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, will not run for reelection.
Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., seen here at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, will not run for reelection. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Cheri Bustos, the Illinois Democrat who led her party’s House campaign arm in the 2020 cycle and won reelection in a nail-biter contest, said Friday she will not seek a sixth term in the House. 

She said she would serve the remainder of her current term, which ends in January 2023. 

Her 17th District, in the northwest corner of the state that includes farmland along the Mississippi River to downtown Peoria, is a competitive seat. But with Illinois set to lose one seat in the House, thanks to the 2020 census, all the state’s district boundaries are subject to change. 

“It has been an honor to be a voice for our family farmers, working families, those struggling to afford health care and so many more,” she said in announcing her decision. “Each time I traveled to Washington, I brought those voices with me to elevate our region and bring real and lasting change.”

Bustos led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2019-2020 cycle when her party retained control of the House. But her strategy to expand House Democrats’ political map, going after seats in GOP turf such as Montana and Alaska, flopped, despite a record-breaking fundraising haul of more than $345 million in total receipts. 

More than a dozen Democratic incumbents lost, including many who had helped the party reclaim control of the House in 2018, when suburban districts soured on the Donald Trump presidency igniting a Blue Wave. Republicans defeated Reps. Max Rose in New York, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma and Joe Cunningham in South Carolina, among others.  

No sitting House Republicans lost in 2020. Bustos did not seek another term running the DCCC.  

The National Republican Congressional Committee put Bustos on its initial target list for the 2022 midterm elections after she won reelection in 2020 with 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Republican Esther Joy King. 

Bustos, a former journalist, hails from a political family. She grew up in the state capital of Springfield. Her grandfather, Joe Callahan, was a state representative who stayed with her family during legislative sessions.

Her late father, Gene, was a political reporter and columnist who became a political aide. He was the chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Paul Simon (who later served in the Senate) and he served in the same capacity for Alan Dixon, as Dixon rose from state treasurer to U.S. senator. She used to babysit the children of fellow Illinois Democrat Richard J. Durbin, the current Senate majority whip and Judiciary Committee chairman. 

“We sat around the kitchen table talking about public service,” she said, according to her CQ profile. “I went door to door for the first time when I was 10.”