In 2016, Democratic congresswoman Cheri Bustos won reelection in her northwestern Illinois district 60 percent to 40 percent, despite the fact that Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton there. Politico noted she was widely hailed as one of the Democratic Party’s “rising stars.”
But in 2020 — when Democrats hung on to their House majority by just five seats and Bustos was in charge of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — she won reelection by just four points.
Today, Bustos announced that she will retire at the end of this term.
Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report calls the news “a blow to Dem prospects for keeping the majority.”
Yes, this could make it easier to shore up #IL14 Rep. Lauren Underwood (D). But Dems wouldn't really be able to draw a 14-3 map anymore, because other parts of Bustos's seat would have to be sacrificed to Republicans.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) April 30, 2021
Redistricting probably could have shored up Bustos’s position to win again in 2022, but her retirement could be a sign that Democrats fear they’ll be in the minority in 2023.
I spoke to a GOP campaign operative this week who pointed to a number of House Democrats now interested in higher office — Cindy Axne in Iowa, Tim Ryan in Ohio, Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy in Florida — as an early sign that Democrats are worried about losing control in 2022. Perhaps they just want the promotion, but the more pure retirements — such as Bustos’s — you see in the next 18 months, the more likely it is that House Democrats think they’ll soon be in the minority.