Democrat defeats incumbent Republican Congressman
In a district redrawn to favor Democrats, East Moline-based Democrat Cheri Bustos defeated freshman incumbent Rep. Bobby Schilling in a race the Democratic party saw as crucial to overtaking control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Bustos, a Democrat, beat incumbent Schilling, R-Colona, by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin, with nearly complete vote totals — absent only final results from Tazewell County — showing 145,013 votes for Bustos and 126,775 for Schilling.
Henry County went for Schilling, giving him 13,382 votes to 10,611 for Bustos. In Galesburg, Bustos won 58 percent of the vote, or 7,070 votes to Schilling’s 4,492. Schilling carried the outlying county with 54 percent of the vote.
The newly drawn 17th Congressional District sprawls from the Iowa state line to parts of western and central Illinois, and was drawn to favor Democrats by an average of six percentage points. By that marker, Bustos covered the district’s spread, beating the Tea Party incumbent by six percentage points.
Parts of Peoria and Rockford were added to the district, and both those areas went big for Bustos. Bustos took 71 percent of the vote in Rockford and 64 percent in Peoria. Those two cities gave Bustos a 17,717 vote advantage over Schilling. She won the district by 18,238 votes, according to unofficial vote totals.
Bustos said her election to office shows that voters understood her message.
She said her campaign has been about middle class families and she’s honored to go to Congress.
Bustos centralized her campaign message around strengthening local manufacturing and ensuring the federal budget does not, in her words, get balanced on the backs of seniors and the middle class. With the help of third party advertising, Bustos worked vigorously to paint Schilling as willing to work for the upper class in lieu of supporting the middle class. Schilling focused on his bipartisan work and leadership qualities, saying he had a proven record of working to solve America’s growing debt and spending problems. Once a national face of the Tea Party Republicans who stormed the House in 2010, Schilling worked to highlight his work with Democrats in an era of extreme partisanship in Washington.
The race was one of the most closely watched in Illinois as Democrats had identified it as an opportunity to pick up a seat in their fight to regain control of the House.
National Republican groups also saw the race as one important to maintaining control in the House, and poured advertising and organizing assistance into the race.