In the race for Illinois' 17th Congressional District, voters will choose between incumbent U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, and her Republican opponent, Esther Joy King in the Nov. 3 general election.
The congressional district covers most of western Illinois and includes Rock Island, Henry, Henderson, Carroll, Fulton, Jo Davies, Knox, Mercer, Stephenson, Warren and Whiteside counties. Portions of Peoria, Tazewell, and Winnebago counties also lie within district boundaries, including the cities of Peoria and Rockford.
Bustos is running for her fifth term in Congress. A native of Springfield and a lifelong resident of Illinois, Bustos has deep family roots in agriculture and education, with many family members having been farmers or teachers.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Maryland, College Park, and her master’s degree in journalism from University of Illinois at Springfield. Bustos worked for 17 years as a journalist for the Quad-City Times and 10 years in the health care industry. She was in her second term on the East Moline City Council when she was elected U.S. representative in 2011.
Bustos is married to Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos, and together they have three grown sons and three grandchildren. She has lived in the Quad-Cities for more than 35 years and raised her family here.
Bustos sits on the House Agriculture Committee and the powerful House Appropriations Committee, a position she has used to secure funding for the Rock Island Arsenal.
"To have that (Midwest) voice when we are looking at major legislation is important," she said. "I've continued to fight for resources that our community and this Congressional district deserve. The future of the Arsenal and the jobs it supports are at stake."
Among her accomplishments, Bustos helped secure $20 million in funding to establish the Center of Excellence for Advanced and Additive Manufacturing at the Arsenal in May 2019.
"I focus on results-driven service for our district, and I've worked to pass significant legislation to help move our country forward, including the most recent COVID-19 relief package, which is called 'Heroes 2.0.'"
The Heroes Act 2 would provide a second round of stimulus checks, but legislation remains stalled after President Trump halted negotiations Tuesday.
Bustos also introduced the Social Determinants Accelerator Act in 2019, legislation that will provide grants and resources for local communities to help improve public health.
"Those are some of the focuses I've accomplished this past Congressional session and what I hope to build on, and a major reason why I am running for reelection," she said. "I've laid the groundwork and sown the seeds for future prosperity and success for the Quad-City region."
If reelected, Bustos said her priorities will be to continue navigating the region through COVID-19; help small businesses reopen and rebuild; support jobs; expand broadband Internet access; and get people back to work safely through testing, tracing and treatment.
"I will continue to advocate for critical local projects and to maintain our locks and dams to support our regional economy," she said. "We are an agricultural-driven economy here. We need to get things back on track for our 9,600 family farms in this Congressional district. The Trump administration has been devastating to the ethanol market."
Esther Joy King
King is the daughter of Christian missionaries and lived with her family in a converted school bus on the U.S.-Mexico border during part of her childhood. After graduating from college, King moved to Kabul, Afghanistan, where she served as an aid worker.
King went on to earn her law degree and a master's of law in taxation from Northwestern University. She began her legal career as an associate at Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Chicago. She moved to the 17th Congressional District about two years ago to be near the Rock Island Arsenal, where she serves in the U.S. Army Reserves, and founded a real estate law firm in East Moline called King and Clark.
"I was raised to serve others and to be part of something bigger than myself," she said. "That theme has played out in my career. I've worked in Afghanistan doing women's rights work, I'm an officer and lawyer in the U.S. Army. I'm proud to serve my country as a member of the military, and I am proud to serve my country by jumping in (the race) because we deserve better representation."
King said she was inspired to run for Congress after talking to local business owners who said they didn't feel represented in Washington.
"I approach anything I do with an entrepreneurial mindset," she said. "Finding out how hungry people are to hear positive, hopeful messaging. ... People are discouraged by what's happening in Washington, D.C. We can do better. My campaign has become a representation of how much better we deserve."
If elected, King said her top priority will be health care and revising the Affordable Care Act by offering more marketplace choices, as the state of Maryland has done.
"The Affordable Care Act has not worked for so many families," she said. "Their costs are going up and up. It's time to take on health care, not as a political gain but to come to the table to lower health care costs.
"I believe free-market competitiveness helps, not only by allowing states to create their own marketplaces but also allowing us to purchase health care insurance across state lines. If Iowa, for example, had a great (insurance) marketplace, residents of Illinois would also be able to purchase across the state line. I believe ultimately, competitiveness creates value for us.
"I'm honored to be part of this and grateful for everyone who is supporting and voting for better representation in western Illinois."
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