Illinois’ House delegation will have seven new members this year, the biggest turnover in recent history. Six have already been elected, and the seventh will join Congress after the special election for Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s seat on April 7.
Here are bios of the freshman (and, in one case, returning) congressmen.
Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline: Bustos, 51, began her career as a reporter and editor for the Quad City Times. After leaving journalism, she worked as director of corporate communications at Trinity Regional Health Systems, and served as an East Moline alderman. She was motivated to run for Congress by a pair of family health crises: her sister-in-law, who was too poor to afford health insurance, died because she couldn’t afford the cancer treatment she needed. Then Bustos’ brother died of cancer: Although he was insured, his insurance didn’t cover the cancer treatment he needed. Bustos defeated freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling in a district that was redrawn to include parts of Rockford and Peoria. Bustos will sit on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville: A staffer for Rep. John Shimkus, Davis, 42, was chosen to replace Rep. Tim Johnson on the ballot after Johnson decided not to run after winning the March primary. Although the 13th District had been redrawn to favor a Democrat, Davis defeated Dr. David Gill by 1,200 votes after highlighting Gill’s past advocacy of assisted suicide. Davis will sit on the Agriculture and Transportation and Infrastructure committees.
Tammy Duckworth, D-Hoffman Estates: Probably the most famous freshman in Congress, Duckworth -- who lost both legs when her Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Iraq -- defeated Tea Party Rep. Joe Walsh in the nation’s highest-profile congressional race. Duckworth, 44, brought Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh to Illinois to campaign for her, and Walsh won himself a lot of bad publicity when he said Duckworth was not a “true hero” because she bragged about her military service. Duckworth will sit on the Armed Services Committee.
William Enyart, D-Belleville: Enyart, 63, the former adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard, was chosen to replace Democratic nominee Brad Harriman on the ballot after Harriman stepped down for health reasons. The incumbent congressman, Jerry Costello, was retiring after 20 years. Enyart defeated Jason Plummer, the lumber heir and the Republican Party’s 2010 nominee for lieutenant governor. He will sit on the Armed Services Committee.
Bill Foster, D-Naperville: This is Foster’s second time around in Congress, which will give him an edge in seniority over the other members of his class. Foster, 57, was first elected to Congress in 2008, defeating perennial Republican candidate Jim Oberweis in both the special election to replace former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and the general election that fall. Foster defeated seven-term moderate Republican Judy Biggert, in a race that featured two millionaires attacking each other for being greedy. Biggert ran an ad accusing Foster of profiting from the Wall Street collapse, while Foster’s ads said Biggert voted to cut taxes on the wealthy. Foster will sit on the Financial Services Committee.
Brad Schneider, D-Deerfield: The Democrats have been trying to win back the North Shore congressional seat for 30 years, since Abner Mikva was appointed a federal judge. The district always supported Democrats for president, but never for Congress. They came close in 2000 against Mark Kirk, and in 2010, Bob Dold defeated three-time loser Dan Seals by 3,000 votes. This time, they finally won, after removing Dold’s hometown of Kenilworth from the district and adding Democratic precincts in Lake County. Schneider, 51, will sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee.