With a friendly family barbecue on a Rock Island County farm as the backdrop, U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling made his bid for re-election official Saturday.
The freshman congressman for Illinois’ 17th District fired up a crowd of more than 250 county Republicans and their families as they basked in the afternoon sunshine at Kenny Bush Farms in Milan.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in such a short time,” Schilling said, detailing some of the victories he says he has had during his first term on behalf of the Rock Island Arsenal, the Interstate 74 bridge, working families and veterans. “But we have a lot more work to do.”
In a show “that freshmen can get work done,” he touted his role in bipartisan efforts that landed three key provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that will help spur job creation at the Rock Island Arsenal.
Schilling also claimed victory in the recent move by Illinois to put $72 million into its long-range transportation plan for the future I-74 bridge.
“Illinois had no money on the table,” he said, adding that another bipartisan effort brought U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to the Quad-Cities, where the secretary urged Congress to pass a bipartisan transportation bill.
Looking forward, Schilling said he plans to focus on getting the Thomson federal prison opened.
“We’ve got a couple hundred-million-dollar investment just sitting there,” he said, adding that opening the prison would invest “$90 million a year immediately into the local economy.”
He also vowed to continue pushing for legislation that will reduce the unemployment rate and create a more business-friendly environment.
“At the end of the day, it’s about putting people back to work,” he said.
As the owner of a small family pizza restaurant and father of 10 children, Schilling said, “I understand what it takes to balance a budget and create an environment for job creation.”
When his wife of 26 years, Christie, introduced her husband, she recalled how the county Republicans thanked them for “filling that spot on the ballot.”
Her husband also remembered how “so many told us it couldn’t be done,” talking of his eventual victory over Democratic incumbent Phil Hare.
In November, he faces a new Democratic challenger, Cheri Bustos, a former Quad-City Times journalist and hospital executive and former East Moline alderwoman.
“To my opponent, ‘Game on,’” he said.
Shilling also encouraged the crowd to work on behalf of all the Republican candidates at the local, state and national levels.
Marilyn Bush, who hosted the campaign announcement with her husband, Kenny, said she has known Schilling since he first became a childhood friend of her son, Steve.
“We support Bobby because we share the same values on family that he does,” she said. “We know he is doing the best job he can.”
Rock Island County GOP Chairwoman Susie Carpentier said the event also served as a way to get new people energized in helping Schilling and the party.
“It’s great to see people bringing their kids here,” she said. “It’s a process they’re going to have to learn.”
She also recalled the doubts the party had two years ago.
“People said Bobby didn’t have a chance,” Carpentier said. “But then he carried Rock Island County and retired that Democratic seat.”