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Cheryl Lea Bustos /ˈbsts/ (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]

Cheri Bustos
Cheri Bustos official photo.jpg
Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2017
Serving with David Cicilline and Hakeem Jeffries
Preceded by Steve Israel
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 17th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by Bobby Schilling
Personal details
Born Cheryl Lea Callahan
(1961-10-17) October 17, 1961 (age 56)
Springfield, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Gerry Bustos
Children 3 sons
Education University of Maryland, College Park (BA)
University of Illinois at Springfield (MA)
Website House website

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 2016 elections, Bustos and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin are the only Democrats in the Illinois Congressional Delegation who are not from the Chicago area.


Early life, education, and private sector careerEdit

Bustos was born in Springfield, Illinois, one of three children of Gene and Ann Callahan. Her grandfather was a hog farmer who was also a state legislator.[3] "We had governors over to our house. We had lieutenant governors," Bustos later said.[4]

Her father worked for The State Journal-Register, then served as assistant press secretary to Governor Samuel Shapiro, press secretary to Lieutenant Governor Paul Simon, and chief of staff to Senator Alan Dixon.[5] As a girl she babysat U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin's children.[6] Her mother worked as a teacher.[7]

Bustos graduated from Springfield High School in 1979. She attended Illinois College, then transferred to the University of Maryland, College Park, from which she received a bachelor's degree in political science in 1983. She went on to receive a master's degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Springfield in 1985.[7][8]

In 1985 she moved to the Quad Cities to work as a night-shift police reporter for the Quad-City Times.[3] Bustos worked there for seventeen years, first as a reporter, and then as an editor.[7]

From 2001 to 2007, she worked as senior director of corporate communications for Trinity Regional Health Systems.[9] 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.[10]

East Moline City CouncilEdit


In 2007, Bustos ran for the East Moline City Council from that city's 4th Ward. She won the Democratic primary with 45% of the vote,[11] and won the general election unopposed.[12][13] In 2011, she won re-election unopposed.[14]


Before first being elected in 2007, Bustos served on East Moline's Citizen Advisory Committee and the East Moline Plan Commission.[citation needed] In 2009, Bustos received an Athena Business Women's Award.[15]

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.[16]

In August 2010, Bustos voted for water and sewer rate hikes.[17] In January 2011, she expressed interest in charging residents who do not recycle extra fees to lower the city's landfill costs.[18] 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."[19] She salso upported water and sewage increases.[20]

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."[21] 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, Bustos resigned in September 2011 to focus on her run for Congress.[22]

Committee assignmentsEdit

  • East Moline Downtown Revitalization Committee (Founded and Chaired)[23]

U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit

2012 electionEdit

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.[24] During the primary, Bustos received the endorsement of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.[25] 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.[26] Gaulrapp reported that during a meeting with Durbin about withdrawing, Durbin said that Bustos had babysat for his family and was a close friend.[26] Bustos won the Democratic primary on March 20, 2012, defeating Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp and businessman Greg Aguilar 54%–26%-20%.[27][28][29]

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.[30] Bustos was endorsed by the Quad-City Times for the general election.[31] In November, she defeated incumbent Republican Bobby Schilling 53%–47%.[32] 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.

After entering the House, Bustos made national headlines by "interviewing colleagues and posting the short videos on her Snapchat account."[33]

2014 electionEdit

Bustos was challenged by Schilling for re-election in 2014.[34]

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."[35][36][37][38] The Chicago Tribune endorsed Schilling for the general election.[39]

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.[40]

Bustos defeated Schilling in the November 4 general election, 55%–45%.[41][42]

2016 electionEdit

Bustos won re-election to the House in the 2016 general election, defeating the Republican challenger Patrick Harlan, an insurance agent,[43] truck driver, and local Tea Party activist.[44]

In a long profile of Bustos on May 12, 2017, Politico noted that in 2016 she was the only Democrat to win a House seat by a more than 20-point margin in a district that Trump also won. "If Democrats are going to wrest control of the House from Republicans, argue many party strategists, it's going to happen in large part by doing more of whatever it is Bustos is doing three hours west of Chicago in her nearly 7,000-square-mile district of small towns and soybean fields," stated Politico. Calling her "one of the party's rising stars," Politico quoted her as saying, "I'm a little bit of a different kind of Democrat."[3]

2018 electionEdit

For the 2018 election, Bustos is challenged by Bill Fawell, a real estate broker who has attracted media attention for his conspiracy claims that the 911 Terrorist Attacks were an inside job perpetrated by the United States Government.[45]

Potential runs for other officesEdit

Bustos considered running for the U.S. Senate in the 2016 election, but announced in March 2015 that she would not run.[46]

In September 2016, reports emerged that Bustos was a possible candidate for Governor of Illinois in the 2018 election.[47] However, in February 2017, Bustos declined to run in the election.[48]


Committee assignmentsEdit

Caucus membershipsEdit

Political positionsEdit

Shortly after taking office, Bustos joined the bipartisan No Labels group.[51] In the first session of the 115th United States Congress, Bustos was ranked the 28th most bipartisan member of the House by the Bipartisan Index, a metric published by The Lugar Center and Georgetown's McCourt School of Public Policy to assess congressional bipartisanship.[52]

Waste reductionEdit

Bustos' first sponsored legislation would create a congressional government waste reduction board.[53][54]


In a July 2012 article, Bustos wrote that she was running for Congress in order to create good-paying jobs for middle-class Americans, including many "whose jobs are being shipped to China."[55]

Bustos wants to create a "manufacturing triangle" connecting Peoria, the Quad Cities, and Rockford and 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.[56]

In July 2017, Bustos and two House colleagues charged in a CNN op-ed that thanks to Republicans, "the economy isn't working the way it should," and promised that their own economic plan would create "millions of good-paying, full-time jobs" and "build an economy that puts Americans first."[57]


In March 2012 she called for cuts in defense spending.[10]

Health careEdit

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."[58] Bustos, a Catholic, supports legalized abortion.[59] She also supported President Barack Obama's order that all health plans cover birth control and "morning after" pills.[60]


Bustos opposed a full extension of the Bush tax cuts.[61]

Congressional pay cutEdit

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."[62] She does not support lowering salaries or pensions for federal government employees.[63]

Illegal immigrationEdit

Bustos supports the DREAM Act.[60]


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.[63]


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."[64]

Sexual assaultEdit

Responding in 2016 to People v. Turner, Bustos claimed that there is a need for more women in Congress in order to bring greater attention to the issue of sexual assault.[65]

Minimum wage lawsEdit

Bustos in 2016 sponsored legislation exempting minor league baseball players from minimum wage laws.[66]


In August 2015, Bustos announced her support for President Obama's Iran nuclear deal. "While the agreement is not perfect, it is the right step for our national security and the security of the global community," she said. "With this agreement, Iran's stockpiles of enriched uranium will be reduced and the country will be opened up to strict transparency and monitoring, including robust on-the-ground nuclear inspectors."[67][68]


In October 2015, Bustos went to Cuba on a trip organized by the Illinois Cuba Working Group. In January 2016, she backed a bill to remove barriers to trade with Cuba.[69] In March 2016, Bustos was part of the Congressional delegation that took part in President Obama's trip to Cuba and said that Cuba represented a "huge trade opportunity" for the US "when it comes to agriculture."[70]


In February 2018, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan announced that a group of three legislators, including Bustos, would serve on an independently funded panel that would "lead a statewide discussion about the role of women in the Democratic party and how to 'change the culture of politics.'"[71] In April, however, she withdrew from the panel, citing criticism by the House Ethics Committee and legal advisers.[72]


In a December 2016 interview, Bustos said she would "make every attempt to work with President Trump where we can find common ground" but "if he takes us down a dark place, then we're going to have a fight on our hands."[73] During an April 2017 interview, however, she "verbally thrashed President Trump." In the same month she said that his first 100 days in office had been "a disaster" and that his health-care plan would rip out "the beating heart of rural America." Politico described her as "practically...taunting Trump." She said that if she were president, "in my first 100 days, I'd want to have a lot of wins—and, you know, I wouldn't want to have wins that I have to lie about."[3]

In June 2017, Bustos argued that her party's "anti-Trump" message was not a winning electoral formula.[74]

In December 2017, Bustos signed a letter asking for a House investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct made against President Trump.[75]

Personal lifeEdit

She met and married Gerry Bustos, a Quad Cities local, not long after moving to the Quad Cities. He is at present the Rock Island County Sheriff and commander of the Quad City Bomb Squad.[76] They have three grown sons and two grandchildren.[3]

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ a b c d e Kruse, Michael. "The Secret Weapon Democrats Don't Know How to Use". Politico. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  4. ^ Beard, Sterling C. "Rep. Bustos treads unusual path as a journalist-turned-politician". The Hill. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  5. ^ Pearson, Rick (August 5, 2014). "Gene Callahan, Illinois political aide and MLB lobbyist, 1935–2014". Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  6. ^ Sweeny, Chuck. "Congresswoman-elect Cheri Bustos moves into D.C. apartment". Rockford Register Star. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  7. ^ a b c "Cheri Bustos". The Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal.
  8. ^ "Bustos, Cheri, (1961 – )". Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress. Office of the Historian. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ a b Tibbetts, Ed (March 11, 2012). "Trio runs for chance to unseat Schilling". Quad-City Times. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  11. ^ "East Moline, IL Alderman Ward 4-D Primary Race – Feb 27, 2007". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  12. ^ "East Moline, IL Alderman Ward 4 Race – Apr 17, 2007". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  13. ^ Barb Ickes (September 14, 2011). "Bustos vacates East Moline City Council seat". Quad-City Times. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  14. ^ "East Moline, IL Alderman Ward 4 Race – Apr 05, 2011". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  15. ^ "2009 Athena Business Women's Award winners announced". Dispatch-Argus Quad-Cities Online. February 18, 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  16. ^ Hocker, Lindsay. "East Moline – Quad-Cities Online: Local". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  17. ^ Hocker, Lindsay (2010-08-16). "East Moline approves modified sewer, water rate hike plan – Quad-Cities Online: Local". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  18. ^ Hocker, Lindsay. "Costs outpace revenue for East Moline garbage collection – Quad-Cities Online: Local". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  19. ^ "East Moline manages priorities". 2011-04-12. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  20. ^ Moline, East (2010-07-28). "Just the facts please: Answering tough questions about water and sewer bills in EM". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  21. ^ "TV ad depicts Bustos as working mom who wants to fix Washington". 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  22. ^ Hocker, Lindsay (September 14, 2011). "Cheri Bustos resigns city council seat; mayor seeking replacement". Quad Cities Online. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  23. ^ "17th U.S. Congressional, Cheri Bustos (D)". Peoria Journal-Star. October 25, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  24. ^ "Schilling's 'Democrat' newsletter angers Bustos". October 26, 2012. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  25. ^ Giuliani, David (January 5, 2012). "Durbin backs Bustos for Congress". Sauk Valley Media. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  26. ^ a b "Candidate: Durbin asked me to withdraw". 2011-12-30. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  27. ^ Chuck Sweeny (March 15, 2012). "3 seek Democratic bid in 17th House District". Rockford Register Star. Retrieved 31 May 2012.[permanent dead link]
  28. ^ "IL – District 17- D Primary Race – Mar 20, 2012". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  29. ^ Ed Tibbetts (March 20, 2012). "Bustos wins primary". Quad-City Times. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  30. ^ Blake, Matthew (July 30, 2012). "Bustos Draws Contrasts With Schilling On Local Issues". Progress Illinois. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  31. ^ Times Editorial Board (October 29, 2012). "Bustos for Illinois' 17th District". Quad-City Times. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  32. ^ "IL – District 17 Race – Nov 06, 2012". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  33. ^ Cooper, Brian. "What a Strange Congressional Trip It's Been". Dubuque Telegraph - Herald. Highbeam. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ "Tribune board calls out U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  36. ^ "Bustos admits mistake over pay comment". 2014-09-25. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  37. ^ Nightengale, Laura (12 September 2014). "Rep. Cheri Bustos concedes that she misspoke". JournalStar.
  38. ^ Lewis, Brittany (22 August 2014). "Schilling says Bustos failed to keep promise on cutting pay". WQAD.
  39. ^ (October 14, 2014) – "Schilling Among Tribune Endorsements for Congress". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
  40. ^ Nelson, Shellie. "Bustos and Schilling agree to local debate". WQAD News. WQAD News. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  41. ^ Vlahos, Nick (November 4, 2014) – "Cheri Bustos Wins 17th U.S. House Rematch With Bobby Schilling". Peoria Journal-Star. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  42. ^ "Illinois General Election 2014". Illinois State Board of Elections. 2014-11-04. Retrieved 2015-02-24.
  43. ^ Untested newcomer challenges incumbent in low-key race
  44. ^ Patrick Harlan wins GOP nomination for 17th Congressional District (
  45. ^ McDermott, Nathan (25 May 2018). "GOP House candidate in Illinois is a 9/11 truther, said Beyonce had ties to the Illuminati". CNN. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  46. ^ Bustos says she won’t run for Senate, praises Duckworth (Washington Times)
  47. ^ Bustos mentioned as possible '18 governor candidate (Quad-City Times)
  48. ^ Skiba, Katherine (February 20, 2017). "Democratic U.S. Rep. Bustos won't run for Illinois governor in 2018". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  49. ^ "Members". New Democrat Coalition. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  50. ^ "Members". Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  51. ^ Archived from the original on February 15, 2013. Retrieved February 9, 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  52. ^ "The Lugar Center - McCourt School Bipartisan Index" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: The Lugar Center. April 24, 2018. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  53. ^ Chris Kaergard (2013-02-07). "Rep. Cheri Bustos introduces bill to streamline government – News – Journal Star – Peoria, IL". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  54. ^ "Cheri Bustos Introduces Legislation to Reduce Redundancy". 2013-02-06. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  55. ^ Bustos, Cheri. "Destruction At The Hands Of Bain Capital — Who's Really Responsible?". Huffington Post. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  56. ^ Kaergard, Chris (October 28, 2012). "Tight contest expected in 17th District". Peoria Journal Star. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
  57. ^ Cheri Bustos; Cicilline, David; Jeffries, Hakeem. "Democrats: Our plan for a better deal". CNN. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  58. ^ "Candidate Bio: Cheri Bustos – 17th District". KMSP-TV. October 11, 2012. Archived from the original on January 16, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  59. ^ Cheri Bustos on Abortion —
  60. ^ a b Sweeny, Chuck. "Chuck Sweeny: House hopeful Bustos weighs in on health, jobs". Rockford Register Star. Archived from the original on 2013-02-01. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  61. ^ Sweeny, Chuck (October 14, 2012). "Bobby Schilling, Cheri Bustos spar over job creation". Rockford Register Star. Archived from the original on 2013-02-01. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  62. ^ "Protecting Taxpayers & Reducing the Deficit". Cheri Bustos for Congress. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  63. ^ a b Ward, Joe; Cheung, Ariel (October 11, 2012). "17th District debate: Schilling, Bustos square off". Galesburg Register-Mail. Archived from the original on January 24, 2013. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  64. ^ "Education". Cheri Bustos for Congress. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  65. ^ 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
  66. ^ [.]
  67. ^ Tibbetts, Ed. "Bustos says she'll vote for Iran deal". Quad-City Times. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  68. ^ Welvaert, Todd. "Bustos to back Iranian pact: 'best path forward'". The Rock Island Dispatch-Argus. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  69. ^ Rovito, Rich. "Illinois Pols Forge Cuba Connection". Better Government Association. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  70. ^ Schoenburg, Bernard. "Durbin, Bustos see opportunity in Cuba". The State Journal-Register. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  71. ^ Sfondeles, Tina. "Madigan taps trio of women, including Bustos, to change 'culture of politics'". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  72. ^ Sfondeles, Tina. "Congresswoman Bustos opts out of Madigan's anti-harassment panel". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  73. ^ Tibbetts, Ed. "Bustos, Loebsack look at way forward for Democrats". Quad-City Times. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  74. ^ Chasmar, Jessica. "Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos: 'Anti-Trump message' not a winning strategy for party". The Washington Time. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  75. ^ Tibbetts, Ed. "Bustos, Loebsack sign letter asking for investigation of Trump for sexual misconduct". Quad-City Times. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  76. ^ New sheriff in Rock Island County has familiar name

External linksEdit