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Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., is promoting his candidacy with a newsletter titled “The Illinois Democrat,” a piece that’s angered his rival, Democrat Cheri Bustos.

The Bustos campaign complained about the mail piece Friday afternoon, arguing it’s an attempt to deceive voters. Schilling’s campaign countered, saying it’s merely an effort to reach out to Democrats with whom the congressman has much in common.

The mail piece is the latest in what has been an expensive and harsh campaign in the 17th Congressional District, mostly played out with accusations in debates and television ads.

The mail piece, which went out earlier this week, is a 16-page newsletter that touts Schilling and criticizes Bustos. Two similar newsletters went out earlier in the campaign, although under different titles. Those went to independents and Republicans.

“This is just another chapter in (the) book of lies from the Schilling campaign. This is appalling behavior from a sitting U.S. congressman, and it’s apparent that Bobby Schilling will stop at nothing to get re-elected,” Bustos campaign manager Allison Jaslow said. “It’s reprehensible that Congressman Bobby Schilling will go to such lengths to save his own job but stands idly by as American jobs continue to be shipped overseas.”

The Bustos campaign says it has received several angry complaints from Democratic supporters.

Terry Schilling, the congressman’s campaign manager, responded Friday that the piece went to 73,000 households and is an attempt to accentuate the congressman’s similarities with Democrats, not to try to deceive them.

“Bobby Schilling has a pretty good bipartisan record in Congress, and we feel Democrats have a lot in common with him,” he said.

It is Bustos who is out of step with the district and with unions, he said.

Terry Schilling said the title of the newsletter was chosen because in this age of polarized politics, it was a way to get people of the opposite party to pay attention.

“If you have something called Bobby Schilling anything, they’re just going to throw it away,” he said. “We wanted to catch their attention, read it and open their mind.”

The mail piece accentuates Schilling’s years as a union member as well as his support for the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires that prevailing wages be paid on public works projects. The act is a favorite with unions and often criticized by conservatives. Terry Schilling also noted Friday that he got the endorsement of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, this week.

Bustos’ campaign countered that it has received the endorsement of about two dozen unions, including the Illinois AFL-CIO, AFSCME and the United Auto Workers. Many of the assertions in the newsletter have been disputed by Bustos during the campaign.

The 17th District race is one of the hottest contests in the country, and the freshman Republican has sought to make the case that he’s a center-right Republican. In particular, he’s accentuated his work on local issues with Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa.

Bustos has tried to portray Schilling as a tea partier who has cynically tried to hide his true nature. On Friday, the Democrat’s campaign circulated a video of Schilling’s appearance at a Tea Party Express rally last month in which he said “the America that you and I know will dissipate if Barack Obama is re-elected.”

Terry Schilling said the congressman is a uniter, not the divider his opponent is and has tried to work with unions and tea partiers.

“Both tea partiers and Democrats and union households, there’s really a lot in common,” he said.

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