Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) has announced that she will not seek reelection in 2022. Bustos was head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last year (currently, she heads the House Democratic Steering Committee). The Democrats were expected to gain seats in 2020, but ended up losing some and barely holding their House majority.
In addition, Bustos, who had won reelection in 2016 by 20 points even though Donald Trump carried her district, won in 2020 by only four points. Her district in Northern Illinois is trending Republican.
Bustos’ explanation to the Huffington Post of her retirement decision included the obligatory “spend more time with my family” theme. Does she fear losing her seat and/or being in the minority come 2023? I don’t know.
Should she fear one or both of these potential outcomes? On the face of things, it looks like Bustos would face difficulty being reelected in 2022. However, the Democrats are in control of redistricting in Illinois. Thus, they could have given her an easier path to reelection. And now that she’s retiring, the Democrats might well have to reconfigure the district if they are to hold it. However, Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report suggests that the Democrats might no longer be able to draw a map of Illinois in which they can maintain their 14-3 edge in the U.S. House.
As for Democratic prospects of maintaining their majority in the House, when members from the majority party start resigning in more than very small numbers, it’s often a sign that the majority party will struggle in the next election. This certainly was true of the Republicans in 2018, as John McCormack reminds us.
But Bustos is just one member. McCormack points to four House Democrats — Cindy Axne in Iowa, Tim Ryan in Ohio, Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy in Florida — who are considering leaving the House to seek higher office. I’m not sure that this signals fear of losing the House. It might simply signal ambition.
Thus, as McCormack says, it’s premature to read national implications into Bustos’ decision to retire. But it’s worth keeping an eye open to see whether other Democrats follow her path in the coming year, or so.