Cheri Bustos

Cheri Bustos
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 8th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by Bobby Schilling
Personal details
Born (1961-10-17) October 17, 1961
Springfield, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Gerry Bustos
Children 3 sons
Alma mater University of Maryland,
College Park
University of Illinois,
Website Official website
House website

Cheryl L. "Cheri" Bustos (née Callahan) (born October 17, 1961) is an American journalist, healthcare executive, and politician who has served as the U.S. Representative for Illinois's 17th congressional district since 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, Bustos is the first woman elected to Congress from her district.[1]

Previously elected to the East Moline City Council in 2007, she defeated Republican incumbent Bobby Schilling in the 2012 congressional election and a subsequent 2014 rematch.[2] Assigned to the House Committee on Agriculture and Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, she represents a northwest Illinois constituency anchored by the Quad Cities, Peoria, and Rockford. As of the 2014 elections, Bustos is the only Democrat in the Illinois Congressional Delegation not from the Chicago area aside from U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.

Early life, education, and private sector career

Bustos was born in Springfield, Illinois, to Gene and Ann Callahan, one of three children. Her father worked for The State Journal-Register before entering state politics; he later served as assistant press secretary to Governor Samuel Shapiro, press secretary to Lieutenant Governor Paul Simon, and chief of staff to Senator Alan Dixon.[3] Her mother worked as a teacher.[4]

She graduated from Springfield High School in 1979. Initially attending Illinois College, she received her bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1983 and her master's degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Springfield in 1985.[4][5]

Bustos worked for seventeen years as a reporter and editor for the Quad-City Times.[4] From 2001 to 2007, she worked as senior director of corporate communications for Trinity Regional Health Systems.[6] From 2008 to 2011, she worked as vice president of corporate communications for Iowa Health System; in her last full year, she received overall compensation of $306,295.[7]

East Moline City Council


Bustos decided to run for the City Council of East Moline's 4th Ward. She won the Democratic primary with 45% of the vote.[8] She won the general election unopposed.[9][10] B In 2011, she won re-election unopposed.[11]


Before first being elected in 2007, Bustos served on East Moline's Citizen Advisory Committee and the East Moline Plan Commission. In 2009, Bustos received an Athena Business Women's Award.[12]

In February 2010, Bustos secured state and federal money to purchase a $40,000 electronic welcome sign that was placed at the border of East Moline.[13]

In August 2010, Bustos voted for water and sewer rate hikes.[14] In January 2011, Bustos expressed interest in charging residents who do not recycle extra fees to lower the city's landfill costs.[15] In April 2011, Bustos voted for a budget that raised property taxes 4.9% and raised garbage collection fees, saying, "these decisions have been made thoughtfully and thoroughly and during the course of 17 open and public budget sessions."[16] She supported water and sewage increases.[17]

She has been criticized for voting for a $624,000 project to improve 10th Street in East Moline, which runs adjacent to Bustos's house; the Schilling campaign dubbed it the "Bustos Parkway".[18] Schilling's claim was called "reckless, irresponsible fiction" by the editorial board of the Quad-City Times.

After being elected to a second term in May 2011, she resigned in September 2011 to focus on her run for Congress.[19]

Committee assignments

U.S. House of Representatives

2012 election

The Bustos campaign publicly stated it received the endorsement of about two dozen unions active in the 17th Congressional district, including the Illinois AFL-CIO, AFSCME and the United Auto Workers.[21] During the primary, Bustos received the endorsement of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.[22] Durbin asked state Senator Dave Koehler and George Gaulrapp to drop out of the race to clear the way for Bustos, who is a close family friend of Durbin.[23] Gaulrapp reported that during a meeting with Durbin about withdrawing, Durbin said that Bustos had babysat for his family and was a close friend.[23] Bustos won the Democratic primary on March 20, 2012, defeating Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp and businessman Greg Aguilar 54%–26%-20%.[24][25][26]

In the general election, Bustos was one of 39 candidates considered to be the most viable challengers against Republican incumbents to benefit from "Red to Blue" program offered by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.[27] Bustos was endorsed by the Quad-City Times for the general election.[28] In November, she defeated incumbent Republican Bobby Schilling 53%–47%.[29] She'd received a significant boost from redistricting, which replaced Quincy, Decatur and the district's portion of Springfield with the more Democratic portions of Peoria and Rockford. She is the first Democrat to represent a significant portion of Peoria since 1927, and only the second Democrat since the 1850s to represent a significant portion of Rockford.

2014 election

Bustos was challenged by Schilling for re-election in 2014.[30]

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune editorial board in 2012, Bustos expressed her support for legislation which would cut congressional pay by 10 percent. When asked by a member of the editorial board if she would voluntarily give up 10 percent of her pay should the legislation fail, Bustos said that she would. During the campaign in 2014, she stated: "When I was in Chicago, I said something that I shouldn’t have said, but I never said it on the campaign trail. I never made it as a promise to the people in the 17th Congressional District."[31][32][33][34] The Chicago Tribune endorsed Schilling for the general election.[35]

As they did in October 2012, Bustos and Schilling agreed to debate at the WQAD-TV News 8 studio on October 9, 2014, with Good Morning Quad Cities anchor Jim Mertens serving as moderator.[36]

Bustos defeated Schilling in the November 4 general election, 55%–45%.[37][38]

2016 election

Bustos won re-election to the House in the 2016 general election, defeating the Republican challenger Patrick Harlan, an insurance agent,[39] truck driver, and local Tea Party activist.[40]

Potential runs for other offices

Bustos considered running for the U.S. Senate in the 2016 election, but announced in March 2015 that she would not run.[41]

In September 2016, reports emerged that Bustos was a possible candidate for Governor of Illinois in the 2018 election.[42]


Committee assignments

Political positions

Shortly after taking office, Bustos joined the bipartisan No Labels group.[43] Her first sponsored legislation would create a congressional government waste reduction board.[44][45]

Bustos wants to create a "manufacturing triangle" connecting Peoria, the Quad Cities, and Rockford anchored by Caterpillar, John Deere, and the aerospace industry, respectively. She supports putting in place job-training programs at area community colleges to better prepare workers for skilled jobs in manufacturing.[46]

Bustos strongly supports the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare). In October 2012, her congressional campaign website said, "The new reform law is not perfect, but makes real improvements in our health care system. It lowers costs for small businesses and makes sure you have coverage that cannot be taken away. It stops insurance companies from denying coverage of preexisting conditions and allows children to stay on their parents’ health insurance for longer."[47] Bustos, a Catholic, supports legalized abortion[48] and the law's White House mandate on contraception, despite the Church's strong opposition.[49]

Bustos opposes a full extension of the Bush tax cuts.[50]

Bustos supports a 10% pay cut for members of Congress with no further pay raises until the federal budget is balanced. She has been critical of Republicans' approach to balancing the budget and reducing taxes. Bustos favors reducing waste and fraud, ending "tax loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas," and ending "corporate handouts."[51] She does not support lowering salaries or pensions for federal government employees.[52]

Bustos supports the DREAM Act.[49]

During a debate, Bustos opposed the three trade agreements approved by Congress in 2011 as "NAFTA-style" and said they would result in job losses for Illinois.[52]

Bustos wants to change No Child Left Behind to offer more assistance for teachers while de-emphasizing "teaching to the test," expand Head Start, reform student loans to address rising tuition costs, "protect and expand college scholarships like Pell Grants" and "improve vocational and job training opportunities for children who decide not to attend college."[53]

In 2016 responding to People v. Turner, Bustos claimed a need for more women in congress to bring sexual assault to the forefront.[54]

Personal life

Bustos is married to Gerry Bustos, the Rock Island County Sheriff and commander of the Quad City Bomb Squad.[55] They have three grown sons and two grandchildren.


  1. Brand, Anna (September 12, 2014). "'30 in 30': Women Candidates to Watch in 2014 – Cheri Bustos". MSNBC. MSNBC. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  2. Levine, Sam (November 5, 2014). "Cheri Bustos Defeats Bobby Schilling In Illinois". The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  3. Pearson, Rick (August 5, 2014). "Gene Callahan, Illinois political aide and MLB lobbyist, 1935–2014". Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 "Cheri Bustos". The Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal.
  5. "Bustos, Cheri, (1961 – )". Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress. Office of the Historian. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  6. Geyer, Thomas (December 6, 2007). "Cheri Bustos: Trinity Health official takes job in Des Moines". The Quad-City Times. The Quad-City Times. Retrieved November 7, 2014.
  7. Tibbetts, Ed (March 11, 2012). "Trio runs for chance to unseat Schilling". Quad-City Times. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  8. "East Moline, IL Alderman Ward 4-D Primary Race – Feb 27, 2007". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  9. "East Moline, IL Alderman Ward 4 Race – Apr 17, 2007". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  10. Barb Ickes (September 14, 2011). "Bustos vacates East Moline City Council seat". Quad-City Times. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  11. "East Moline, IL Alderman Ward 4 Race – Apr 05, 2011". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  12. "2009 Athena Business Women's Award winners announced". Dispatch-Argus Quad-Cities Online. February 18, 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  13. Hocker, Lindsay. "East Moline – Quad-Cities Online: Local". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  14. Hocker, Lindsay (2010-08-16). "East Moline approves modified sewer, water rate hike plan – Quad-Cities Online: Local". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  15. Hocker, Lindsay. "Costs outpace revenue for East Moline garbage collection – Quad-Cities Online: Local". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  16. "East Moline manages priorities". 2011-04-12. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  17. Moline, East (2010-07-28). "Just the facts please: Answering tough questions about water and sewer bills in EM". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  18. "TV ad depicts Bustos as working mom who wants to fix Washington". 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  19. Hocker, Lindsay (September 14, 2011). "Cheri Bustos resigns city council seat; mayor seeking replacement". Quad Cities Online. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  20. "17th U.S. Congressional, Cheri Bustos (D)". Peoria Journal-Star. October 25, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  21. "Schilling's 'Democrat' newsletter angers Bustos". October 26, 2012. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  22. Giuliani, David (January 5, 2012). "Durbin backs Bustos for Congress". Sauk Valley Media. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  23. 1 2 "Candidate: Durbin asked me to withdraw". 2011-12-30. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  24. Chuck Sweeny (March 15, 2012). "3 seek Democratic bid in 17th House District". Rockford Register Star. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  25. "IL – District 17- D Primary Race – Mar 20, 2012". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  26. Ed Tibbetts (March 20, 2012). "Bustos wins primary". Quad-City Times. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  27. Blake, Matthew (July 30, 2012). "Bustos Draws Contrasts With Schilling On Local Issues". Progress Illinois. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  28. Times Editorial Board (October 29, 2012). "Bustos for Illinois' 17th District". Quad-City Times. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  29. "IL – District 17 Race – Nov 06, 2012". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  30. Crow, Nick (July 13, 2013). "Election 2014: Bobby Schilling set for rematch with Rep. Cheri Bustos". The Journal Standard. Freeport, Illinois. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
  31. "Tribune board calls out U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  32. "Bustos admits mistake over pay comment". 2014-09-25. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  33. Nightengale, Laura (12 September 2014). "Rep. Cheri Bustos concedes that she misspoke". JournalStar.
  34. Lewis, Brittany (22 August 2014). "Schilling says Bustos failed to keep promise on cutting pay". WQAD.
  35. (October 14, 2014) – "Schilling Among Tribune Endorsements for Congress". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
  36. Nelson, Shellie. "Bustos and Schilling agree to local debate". WQAD News. WQAD News. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  37. Vlahos, Nick (November 4, 2014) – "Cheri Bustos Wins 17th U.S. House Rematch With Bobby Schilling". Peoria Journal-Star. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  38. "Illinois General Election 2014". Illinois State Board of Elections. 2014-11-04. Retrieved 2015-02-24.
  39. Untested newcomer challenges incumbent in low-key race
  40. Patrick Harlan wins GOP nomination for 17th Congressional District (
  41. Bustos says she won’t run for Senate, praises Duckworth (Washington Times)
  42. Bustos mentioned as possible '18 governor candidate (Quad-City Times)
  43. Archived from the original on February 15, 2013. Retrieved February 9, 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  44. Chris Kaergard (2013-02-07). "Rep. Cheri Bustos introduces bill to streamline government – News – Journal Star – Peoria, IL". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  45. "Cheri Bustos Introduces Legislation to Reduce Redundancy". 2013-02-06. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  46. Kaergard, Chris (October 28, 2012). "Tight contest expected in 17th District". Peoria Journal Star. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
  47. "Candidate Bio: Cheri Bustos – 17th District". KMSP-TV. October 11, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  48. Cheri Bustos on Abortion —
  49. 1 2 Sweeny, Chuck. "Chuck Sweeny: House hopeful Bustos weighs in on health, jobs". Rockford Register Star. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  50. Sweeny, Chuck (October 14, 2012). "Bobby Schilling, Cheri Bustos spar over job creation". Rockford Register Star. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  51. "Protecting Taxpayers & Reducing the Deficit". Cheri Bustos for Congress. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  52. 1 2 Ward, Joe; Cheung, Ariel (October 11, 2012). "17th District debate: Schilling, Bustos square off". Galesburg Register-Mail. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  53. "Education". Cheri Bustos for Congress. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  54. Aguilera, Jasmine (2016-06-16). "House Members Unite to Read Stanford Rape Victim's Letter". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-06-16. This is why we need more women
  55. New sheriff in Rock Island County has familiar name

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Bobby Schilling
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 17th congressional district

United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Julia Brownley
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Tony Cárdenas
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