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New chair of House Dems' campaign arm says “we can’t just rent” newly flipped districts

Rep. Cheri Bustos on women in Congress
Rep. Cheri Bustos on women in Congress 08:46

Newly elected House Democrats shouldn't get too comfortable, the incoming chair of the House Democrats' campaign arm is warning.

"We go into the next two years thinking we can't just rent these spots, these congressional districts. We have to own them," Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos told CBS News, regarding the 40 House seats Democrats flipped in the November midterm elections.

"You better have a darn good work ethic in a job like this," Bustos said. "You show people back home that they are who you report work hard and go to every corner of your congressional district and use these two ears and this one mouth proportionally."

Bustos, who cruised to re-election in November by 24 points in a district won by Donald Trump in 2016, was recently elected by her colleagues to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Democrats had a successful November -- not only taking back the House of Representatives, but also making strides in areas where Mr. Trump won two years ago. Thirty-one Democrats in the next Congress will represent districts that also voted for the Republican president, including Bustos.

That feat also represents a big challenge in 2020, when the presidential contest will help to shape races lower on the ballot and where splitting the ticket between candidates of different parties may be less common. The Democratic nominee, Bustos says, has to be pitch perfect.

"Absolutely it matters," she said. "In a presidential cycle, who our nominee is matters a great deal because everybody who is 18 years or older who goes to the ballot box knows it's the presidential [candidate] at the top of the ticket." 

Asked who that person might be, with over two dozen Democrats so far said to be interested in entering the presidential primary in the next year, Bustos responded that she wants "somebody who understands congressional districts like mine."

"Sixty percent of the towns I represent are 1,000 people are fewer, and 85 percent are 5,000 people or fewer. A lot of folks in smaller towns and rural America and the heartland feel they have been left behind way too long," Bustos said. "I want to make sure our nominee for president understands how hard farmers work….I get the farm bureau endorsement cycle after cycle because I show up on the hog farm or the dairy farm or the chicken farm….my votes reflect that I'm making sure they know I'm fighting for them." 

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