Add U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos to the list of Illinois Democrats who are being mentioned as possible challengers to Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018.
Politico, citing "sources close to the state party," reported on Wednesday that Democrats have "recently set their sights" on Bustos as a possible contender.
The Moline Democrat, now in her second term, has seen her stock rise after winning re-election in 2014, a year when Republicans swept to victory in many other parts of the country.
She was mentioned last year as a possible Senate candidate, before giving way to Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Bustos also been traveling the country to try to get Democrats elected to the House. She is co-chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Red to Blue" group, which seeks to win over Republican seats.
A Bustos spokesman, Jared Smith, said Wednesday the congresswoman is focused on working for her district's constituents and on electing Democrats to the House in November. Still, he had sharp words for Rauner. Smith said another Bustos goal is to help elect Democrats across the state to "go after the disastrous Rauner downturn agenda that’s hurt so many working families."
Earlier this year, Bustos also publicly pressured the governor to commit state funding to a passenger rail connection between Chicago and Moline.
The project, which was awarded a grant for the project in 2010, was in danger of losing the grant. The governor committed state funds in June.
Bustos is one of a number of Democrats who have been mentioned as possible challengers to Rauner. The most prominent is Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who also has said he is focused on the 2016 election, not 2018.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Chris Kennedy, the son of the late Robert Kennedy, and former Gov. Pat Quinn also have been mentioned as possibilities.
Bustos has close ties to Durbin, so it isn't clear whether her name being mentioned is a sign of his level of interest. But, locally, political figures say they would welcome her interest.
"I think she'd have to be taken seriously," said Doug House, an ally and leader of the Rock Island County Democratic Party who also chairs the Illinois Democratic County Chairmen's Association. "She's demonstrated a work ethic that is of the highest caliber. Nobody is going to outwork Cheri.”
Bustos, who has been a prolific fundraiser, won the 17th District seat in 2012, defeating incumbent Republican Bobby Schilling. She also defeated him two years ago.