Democrat Cheri Bustos swept to a convincing primary win Tuesday night, setting up what’s expected to be a hard-fought, closely watched fall contest for Illinois’ 17th Congressional District.

Bustos, a former Quad-City Times journalist and hospital executive, cruised to victory over Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp and Augustana College administrator Greg Aguilar, rolling up sizeable winning margins in several of the 14 counties that make up the northwest Illinois district. That included Rock Island County, the most populous part of the district.

At her election-night party at the American Legion hall in East Moline, Bustos looked to the fall campaign.

“Voters will have a choice of my opponent’s views of economic security, which is more tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations, and my view of economic security, which protects and rebuilds the middle class,” she said to applause. “We have to stop the assault on the middle class, on Medicare and Social Security.”

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Bustos held 58 percent of the vote, with 18,491 of the ballots cast. Aguilar followed with 6,728 votes, or 21 percent. Gaulrapp had 6,532 votes, or 21 percent, according to an Associated Press tally.

Bustos amassed a large financial lead over her rivals but largely ignored them during the primary campaign.

Instead, she trained her eye on Schilling, portraying him as the candidate of millionaires who went along with a Republican plan to undermine Medicare and herself as a working mother who would fight for working people.

Bustos, despite the large financial edge, didn’t air any television ads, instead relying on mail and traveling the district to get out her message. She also won a bevy of endorsements, including from Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Republicans appeared ready for the fight Tuesday night.

The political arm for the House Republicans launched a website that targets Bustos’ record at East Moline City Hall, where she was an alderwoman before stepping down to run for Congress.

Meanwhile, Schilling’s campaign responded to Tuesday night’s results with a statement. His communications director, Jon Schweppe, said Bustos brought a record of higher taxes, unemployment and spending to the race.

“That’s not the vision we need for our country’s future,” he said. “We need leaders in Washington who will fight for us, not career politicians bought and paid for by U.S. senators.”

The fall campaign is expected to be a bruising one.

Schilling won an upset over ex-Rep. Phil Hare in 2010, taking control of a district that had been in Democratic hands for nearly 30 years.

Last year, the district’s lines were redrawn to include more Democratic territory. However, the political makeup of the new 17th didn’t change as much as others in the state.

The campaign will likely be expensive. Bustos raised $679,000 between last July and the end of February and had $490,000 in the bank as of three weeks ago.

Schilling has raised $879,000 over the past 14 months and had $659,000 in cash on hand at the end of February.

 


UPDATE: The Associated Press has declared Democrat Cheri Bustos the winner in Tuesday’s primary in Illinois’ 17th Congressional District.


UPDATE: Democrat Cheri Bustos has declared victory in Tuesday’s primary in Illinois’ 17th Congressional District.


EARLIER STORY

Bustos leading early results in 17th

Democrat Cheri Bustos was leading early results in Tuesday’s primary in  Illinois’ 17th Congressional District.

With 77 percent of the vote tallied, Bustos had 14,164 votes, or 60 percent, to challenger Greg Aguilar with 5,122, or 22 percent and George Gaulrapp with 4,202 votes or 18 percent

Bustos, a former Quad-City Times journalist and hospital executive, took an early lead over Gaulrapp, the mayor of Freeport, and Aguilar, an Augustana College administrator, in several of the 14 counties that make up the northwest Illinois district.

Bustos amassed a large financial lead over her rivals but largely ignored them during the primary campaign. Instead, she trained her eye on incumbent Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill.

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