Cheri Bustos, East Moline 4th ward alderman.

Contributed photo

Calling herself a working mother who wants to make a difference, East Moline Alderwoman Cheri Bustos formally declared her candidacy for Congress on Wednesday.

She said her focus would be on jobs and manufacturing, as well as defending Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

With family and friends looking on, Bustos made the announcement at St. Anthony’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rock Island.

“There is so much we need to do in Washington, and it is not getting done,” she said. “We need new leadership committed to creating practical solutions important to working families and to the middle class.”

Bustos said she and her husband had lost siblings in the past year, each of whom faced insurance gaps. And she said a sustainable, affordable health-care system also is significant need.

Bustos joins three others who have formally declared candidacies.

State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp and Rock Island lawyer Eric Reyes also are seeking the Democratic nomination to run against U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill.

The 17th District race is expected to be a top priority for national Democrats. Schilling is one of only about a dozen Republicans holding seats in districts that have tended to vote Democratic in presidential elections. For that reason, they think he’s a ripe target.

The congressman, however, has vowed a fight, although he has yet to formally declare a candidacy for a second term.

A former Quad-City Times journalist, Bustos recently resigned as vice president for public relations and communications at Des Moines-based Iowa Health System, which owns hospitals in the Quad-Cities.

She and her husband have three grown sons, and Bustos said she has a track record of problem solving and a reputation for getting the job done at work and at home.

“I’m an everyday working woman, and all I want to do is make a difference,” she said.

In answer to reporters’ questions, Bustos also addressed the debate over the debt ceiling, which is currently

roiling Washington, D.C.

She said a combination of revenue increases and budget cuts are needed.

“We can’t continue to hurt our seniors. We can’t continue to hurt those who are underserved who are hurting already,” she said.

She also pledged to convene an annual economic summit to seek ideas to make the area a destination for manufacturing jobs.

The National Republican Congressional Committee responded to Bustos’ announcement by saying she would raise taxes. The group previously targeted her record on the East Moline City Council.

“Instead of turning the country’s dire fiscal outlook around by having the government live within its means, Bustos would demand more taxes from Illinois small businesses and families,” said Andrea Bozek, an NRCC spokeswoman.

Bustos responded that during her five years on the City Council, East Moline has balanced its budgets, and that Republicans are “bringing Washington politics and name calling into our district.”

“I’ll match my record on balancing budgets against Bobby Schilling’s any day,” she said.