Cheri Bustos: A Day in the Life
Cheri Bustos is running for Congress in Illinois’ 17th district. Her opponent is Tea Party-backed Republican Bobby Schilling. Although Schilling is an incumbent, Obama won the district in 2008, which makes the 17th district crucial for Democrats looking to take back control of the House. Cheri Bustos is a rock star candidate and is poised to do great things for Illinois and the country. But what you may not know about her is that she’s a grandmother, an athlete and an incredibly generous person. I got to see firsthand what a day in the life of the Cheri Bustos campaign is like when I visited earlier this summer.
A typical day with Cheri starts at 5 a.m. at the gym. Cheri has always been an athlete (a member of the Illinois College Sports Hall of Fame!) so starting the day off with a workout is important to her. I found her after her workout - filled with energy and wearing a small bracelet that says “courage” on her right arm - at one of their favorite local coffee shops, Cup A Joe, where we had coffee with a number of women voters and supporters.
They discussed issues that are affecting the lives of women and families and what having a representative in Congress, like Cheri, would do to help. The 17th district has never elected a woman to Congress before, and with the excessive amount of anti-women legislation going through Congress this year, now more than ever, it’s important to defeat far-right Republicans, like Cheri’s opponent, Bobby Schilling. And Cheri’s pro-women, pro-health care background is the perfect alternative.
“I haven’t been active in politics since high school,” said Sue, an attendee at the women’s coffee sit-down, “What made me do it? Cheri. She’s a compelling candidate. People vote for who they like, and Cheri’s Cheri-ness is key.”
After coffee, we headed back to her campaign headquarters in east Moline to do some work. Even in the car ride back, Cheri would talk about what she had heard from this group of women. She remembers what’s important to constituents and thinks constructively about how she can help them.
I asked Cheri what her top priorities would be when she got to Congress. She said she’d be eager to work with folks on health care, education and economic issues. She’s also a strong advocate for job creation and small businesses. The 17th district has a notable manufacturing presence. She taught me all about tractors and combines when we visited the John Deere Pavilion (see pictures!). The 17th district is also home to Caterpillar, Chrysler and aerospace manufacturing. As a result, she has a strong focus on jobs and helping the middle class.
Cheri’s sports history is a huge motivator in her life and run for office. Her love of sports was evident when a forced call-time break (loud train passing by) turned into all of us throwing the football around. She knows how to work hard, be a team player and keep her eye on the prize. She told me, “I go into any situation as if the team I’m playing is 10-0. How do you beat a team that good? Even if polls show I’m ahead, I don’t act that way.” Cheri knows there’s no such thing as a “sure thing,” and she’ll work as hard for the people of the 17th district of Illinois as Congresswoman as she is while she’s working to get elected.
When I spent the day with Cheri, it was a Friday. On Friday at 5 p.m. sharp, Cheri met her husband, Gerry, at Frank’s Pizza for dinner. This was part of the agreement they had when she decided to run for office – she would have dinner with her family every Friday. Their youngest son, Joey, who had been helping at the campaign office all day didn’t join them that night. But that was ok, as regulars at Frank’s Cheri and Gerry had lots of familiar faces to chat with. To them, she wasn’t just candidate Cheri Bustos; she was their friend, neighbor – the perfect person to represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives.