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Cheri Bustos
Cheri Bustos official photo.jpg
Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2019
LeaderNancy Pelosi
Preceded byBen Ray Luján
Co-Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee
In office
January 3, 2017 – January 3, 2019
Preceded bySteve Israel (Chair)
Succeeded byMatt Cartwright
Debbie Dingell
Ted Lieu
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 17th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded byBobby Schilling
Personal details
Cheryl Lea Callahan

(1961-10-17) October 17, 1961 (age 58)
Springfield, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Gerry Bustos
RelativesJoseph R. Callahan (grandfather)
EducationUniversity of Maryland, College Park (BA)
University of Illinois at Springfield (MA)
WebsiteHouse website

Cheryl Lea Bustos (/ˈbsts/; née Callahan, October 17, 1961) is an American journalist, healthcare executive and politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Illinois's 17th congressional district since 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, she is the first woman elected to Congress from her district, located in the northwestern part of the state, anchored by the Illinois side of the Quad Cities and partially including Peoria and Rockford.[1] In 2019, Bustos assumed a leadership position among House Democrats as Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).[2]

Previously elected to the East Moline City Council in 2007, she defeated Republican incumbent Bobby Schilling in the 2012 election and a subsequent 2014 rematch.[3] Assigned to the House Committee on Agriculture and Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Bustos and Senator Dick Durbin are the only Democrats in the congressional delegation from Illinois who are not from the Chicago area as of the 2016 elections.

Early life, education and private sector career

Bustos was born in Springfield, Illinois, one of three children of Gene and Ann Callahan. Her grandfather Joseph R. Callahan was a hog farmer who was also a state legislator.[4][5] "We had governors over to our house. We had lieutenant governors," Bustos later said.[6]

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.[7] As a girl she babysat U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s children.[8] Her mother worked as a teacher.[9]

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.[9][10]

In 1985 she moved to the Quad Cities to work as a night-shift police reporter for the Quad-City Times.[5] Bustos worked there for seventeen years, first as a reporter, and then as an editor.[9]

From 2001 to 2007, she worked as senior director of corporate communications for Trinity Regional Health Systems.[11] 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.[12]

East Moline City Council


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,[13] and won the general election unopposed.[14][15] In 2011, she won re-election unopposed.[16]


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.[17]

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.[18]

In August 2010, Bustos voted for water and sewer rate hikes.[19] In January 2011, she expressed interest in charging residents who do not recycle extra fees to lower the city's landfill costs.[20] 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."[21] She also supported water and sewage increases.[22]

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."[23] 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.[24]

Committee assignments

  • East Moline Downtown Revitalization Committee (Founded and Chaired)[25]

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.[26] During the primary, Bustos received the endorsement of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.[27] 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.[28] Gaulrapp reported that during a meeting with Durbin about withdrawing, Durbin said that Bustos had babysat for his family and was a close friend.[28] Bustos won the Democratic primary on March 20, 2012, defeating Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp and businessman Greg Aguilar 54%–26%-20%.[29][30][31]

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.[32] Bustos was endorsed by the Quad-City Times for the general election.[33] In November, she defeated incumbent Republican Bobby Schilling 53%–47%.[34] 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."[35]

2014 election

Bustos was challenged by Schilling for re-election in 2014.[36]

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."[37][38][39][40] The Chicago Tribune endorsed Schilling for the general election.[41]

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.[42]

Bustos defeated Schilling in the November 4 general election, 55%–45%.[43][44]

2016 election

Bustos won re-election to the House in the 2016 general election, defeating the Republican challenger Patrick Harlan, an insurance agent,[45] truck driver, and local Tea Party activist.[46]

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."[5]

2018 election

For the 2018 election, Bustos was challenged by Bill Fawell, a real estate broker who has attracted media attention for his conspiracy claims that the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks were an inside job perpetrated by the United States Government.[47] Bustos was re-elected with 61.9% of the final vote tally over Fawell's 38.1%.

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.[48]

In September 2016, reports emerged that Bustos was a possible candidate for Governor of Illinois in the 2018 election.[49] However, in February 2017, Bustos declined to run in the election.[50]


Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Political positions

Shortly after taking office, Bustos joined the bipartisan No Labels group.[53] 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.[54]

Waste reduction

Bustos' first sponsored legislation would create a congressional government waste reduction board.[55][56]


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."[57]

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.[58]

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."[59]


In March 2012 she called for cuts in defense spending.[12]

Health care

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."[60] Bustos, a Catholic, supports legalized abortion.[61] She also supported President Barack Obama's order that all health plans cover birth control and "morning after" pills.[62]


Bustos opposed a full extension of the Bush tax cuts.[63]

Congressional pay cut

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."[64] She does not support lowering salaries or pensions for federal government employees.[65]

Undocumented immigrants

Bustos supports the DREAM Act.[62]


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.[65]


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."[66]

Sexual assault

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.[67]

Minimum wage laws

Bustos in 2016 sponsored legislation exempting minor league baseball players from minimum wage laws.[68]


In August 2015, Bustos announced her support for President Barack 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."[69][70]


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.[71] In March 2016, Bustos was part of the Congressional delegation that took part in Obama's trip to Cuba and said that Cuba represented a "huge trade opportunity" for the US "when it comes to agriculture."[72]


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.'"[73] In April, however, she withdrew from the panel, citing criticism by the House Ethics Committee and legal advisers.[74]

Donald Trump

In a December 2016 interview, Bustos said she would "make every attempt to work with President Donald 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."[75] 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."[5]

In June 2017, Bustos argued that her party's "anti-Trump" message was not a winning electoral formula.[76]

In December 2017, Bustos signed a letter asking for a House investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct made against Trump.[77]

Electoral history

East Moline, Illinois Alderman Ward 4 General Election, 2007[78]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cheri Bustos 234 100.0
Total votes 234 100.0
East Moline, Illinois Alderman Ward 4 General Election, 2011[79]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cheri Bustos (incumbent) 55 100.0
Total votes 55 100.0
Illinois 17th Congressional District Democratic Primary, 2012[80]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cheri Bustos 18,652 54.40
Democratic George Gaulrapp 8,838 25.78
Democratic Greg Aguilar 6,798 19.83
Total votes 34,288 100.0
Illinois 17th Congressional District General Election, 2012[81]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cheri Bustos 153,519 53.28
Republican Bobby Schilling (incumbent) 134,623 46.72
Write-in votes Eric Reyes 10 0.00
Write-in votes Joe Faber 9 0.00
Total votes 288,161 100.0
Illinois 17th Congressional District General Election, 2014[82]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cheri Bustos (incumbent) 110,560 55.46
Republican Bobby Schilling 88,785 44.53
Write-in votes Bill Fawell 16 0.01
Total votes 199,361 100.0
Illinois 17th Congressional District General Election, 2016[83]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cheri Bustos (incumbent) 173,125 60.31
Republican Patrick Harlan 113,943 39.69
Total votes 287,068 100.0
Illinois 17th Congressional District General Election, 2018[84]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cheri Bustos (incumbent) 142,659 62.09
Republican William W. "Bill" Fawell 87,090 37.91
Total votes 229,749 100.0

Personal life

She met and married Gerry Bustos, a Quad Cities local, not long after moving to the Quad Cities. He is currently serving as the Rock Island County Sheriff and commander of the Quad City Bomb Squad.[85] They have three grown sons and two grandchildren.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Brand, Anna (September 12, 2014). "'30 in 30': Women Candidates to Watch in 2014 – Cheri Bustos". MSNBC. MSNBC. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  2. ^ Taylor, Jessica (January 6, 2019). "A Guide To Who's Who In House Leadership For The 116th Congress". Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  3. ^ Levine, Sam (November 5, 2014). "Cheri Bustos Defeats Bobby Schilling In Illinois". The Huffington Post. New York City. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  4. ^ "A family tradition of cooperative public service". July 1, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e Kruse, Michael (May 12, 2017). "The Secret Weapon Democrats Don't Know How to Use". Politico. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
  6. ^ Beard, Sterling C. (May 13, 2013). "Rep. Bustos treads unusual path as a journalist-turned-politician". The Hill. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
  7. ^ Pearson, Rick (August 5, 2014). "Gene Callahan, Illinois political aide and MLB lobbyist, 1935–2014". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  8. ^ Sweeny, Chuck. "Congresswoman-elect Cheri Bustos moves into D.C. apartment". Rockford Register Star. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c "Cheri Bustos". The Wall Street Journal.
  10. ^ "Bustos, Cheri, (1961 – )". Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress. Office of the Historian. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ a b Tibbetts, Ed (March 11, 2012). "Trio runs for chance to unseat Schilling". Quad-City Times. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  13. ^ "East Moline, IL Alderman Ward 4-D Primary Race – Feb 27, 2007". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  14. ^ "East Moline, IL Alderman Ward 4 Race – Apr 17, 2007". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  15. ^ Ickes, Barb (September 14, 2011). "Bustos vacates East Moline City Council seat". Quad-City Times. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
  16. ^ "East Moline, IL Alderman Ward 4 Race – Apr 05, 2011". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  17. ^ "2009 Athena Business Women's Award winners announced". Dispatch-Argus Quad-Cities Online. February 18, 2009. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
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  22. ^ Moline, East (July 28, 2010). "Just the facts please: Answering tough questions about water and sewer bills in EM". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  23. ^ "TV ad depicts Bustos as working mom who wants to fix Washington". August 28, 2012. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  24. ^ Hocker, Lindsay (September 14, 2011). "Cheri Bustos resigns city council seat; mayor seeking replacement". Quad Cities Online. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  25. ^ "17th U.S. Congressional, Cheri Bustos (D)". Peoria Journal-Star. October 25, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
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  27. ^ Giuliani, David (January 5, 2012). "Durbin backs Bustos for Congress". Sauk Valley Media. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  28. ^ a b "Candidate: Durbin asked me to withdraw". December 30, 2011. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
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  31. ^ Tibbetts, Ed (March 20, 2012). "Bustos wins primary". Quad-City Times. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
  32. ^ Blake, Matthew (July 30, 2012). "Bustos Draws Contrasts With Schilling On Local Issues". Progress Illinois. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
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  34. ^ "IL – District 17 Race – Nov 06, 2012". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  35. ^ Cooper, Brian. "What a Strange Congressional Trip It's Been". Dubuque Telegraph - Herald. Highbeam. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ "Tribune board calls out U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  38. ^ "Bustos admits mistake over pay comment". September 25, 2014. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  39. ^ Nightengale, Laura (September 12, 2014). "Rep. Cheri Bustos concedes that she misspoke". JournalStar.
  40. ^ Lewis, Brittany (August 22, 2014). "Schilling says Bustos failed to keep promise on cutting pay". WQAD.
  41. ^ (October 14, 2014) – "Schilling Among Tribune Endorsements for Congress". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
  42. ^ Nelson, Shellie. "Bustos and Schilling agree to local debate". WQAD News. WQAD News. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  43. ^ Vlahos, Nick (November 4, 2014) – "Cheri Bustos Wins 17th U.S. House Rematch With Bobby Schilling". Peoria Journal-Star. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
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  45. ^ Tibbetts, Ed. "Untested newcomer challenges incumbent in low-key race". The Quad-City Times.
  46. ^ Patrick Harlan wins GOP nomination for 17th Congressional District (
  47. ^ McDermott, Nathan (May 25, 2018). "GOP House candidate in Illinois is a 9/11 truther, said Beyonce had ties to the Illuminati". CNN. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  48. ^ Bustos says she won’t run for Senate, praises Duckworth (Washington Times)
  49. ^ Bustos mentioned as possible '18 governor candidate (Quad-City Times)
  50. ^ Skiba, Katherine (February 20, 2017). "Democratic U.S. Rep. Bustos won't run for Illinois governor in 2018". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
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  54. ^ "The Lugar Center - McCourt School Bipartisan Index" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: The Lugar Center. April 24, 2018. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
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  61. ^ Cheri Bustos on Abortion —
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  81. ^ "Election Results 2012 GENERAL ELECTION". Illinois State Board of Elections. Retrieved November 4, 2019.[permanent dead link]
  82. ^ "Election Results 2014 GENERAL ELECTION". Illinois State Board of Elections. Retrieved November 4, 2019.[permanent dead link]
  83. ^ "Election Results 2016 GENERAL ELECTION". Illinois State Board of Elections. Retrieved November 4, 2019.[permanent dead link]
  84. ^ "Election Results 2018 GENERAL ELECTION". Illinois State Board of Elections. Retrieved November 4, 2019.[permanent dead link]
  85. ^ Service, From MCT News; Media, Shaw. "New sheriff in Rock Island County has familiar name".

External links

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

Party political offices
Preceded by
Steve Israel
Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee
Served alongside: David Cicilline, Hakeem Jeffries
Succeeded by
David Cicilline
Preceded by
Ben Ray Luján
Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Julia Brownley
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Tony Cárdenas
This page was last edited on 21 July 2020, at 11:37
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