Race to Watch is a twice-weekly Ward Room column dedicated to helping voters familiarize themselves with candidates in the lead-up to the Nov. 8 general election. This edition's focus in Illinois' 17th Congressional District.
Incumbent Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos is facing Republican newcomer Patrick Harlan in her bid for a third term as Illinois’ 17th Congressional District congresswoman.
Bustos, a former investigative journalist, represents a district that includes the Quad-Cities, Rockford and Peoria, as well as the world headquarters of John Deere and Caterpillar. She serves as a Senior Whip in the House of Representatives and is on the House Committee on Agriculture and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
Earlier this month, her name was floated as a possible Democratic challenger to Gov. Bruce Rauner in the 2018 Gubernatorial election.
The congresswoman also serves as vice-chair of recruiting and co-chair of the Red to Blue program at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which focuses on recruiting and electing women to Congress to pass policies that would ensure equal pay for equal work, earned family leave and more affordable child care.
As a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Bustos helped write and pass a five-year Highway bill, the first in a decade. The measure is projected to deliver $7.5 billion in federal funding for Illinois’ roads and bridges. Bustos also fought to resurrect a $177 million federal investment in a passenger rail line from the Quad-Cities to Chicago.
After 14 percent of the children tested in Knox County had lead-blood levels above the point where the Center for Disease Control recommends intervention, Bustos pushed for federal aid. The Environmental Protection Agency ultimately recommended bottled or tap water filters for homes that were exceeding lead levels in the community.
The City of Galesburg also started providing free water testing for homes with lead service lines and filters for any homes exceeding the 1.5x “federal action level” for lead content. Bustos worked to advance the city’s efforts to secure a $4 million forgivable loan to replace lead service lines that were causing the problem.
“Cheri Bustos is proud to fight for Illinois’ working families in Congress each and every day,” Bustos spokeswoman Stacy Raker said in a statement. “Over the last two years, she’s secured millions of dollars to replace lead pipes to protect our drinking water, stopped Governor Rauner from losing $177 million in federal funding for passenger rail service and helped lead an effort to pass a bipartisan bill that’s projected to bring $7.5 billion to rebuild Illinois’ roads and bridges.”
“Cheri is committed to fighting for an economy that works for everyone by getting real results for the families she represents,” Raker added.
Bustos’ opponent, Harlan, serves as the president of the Knox County Tea Party and currently works as a truck driver. He was one of nine delegates from Illinois bound by state party rules to support Ted Cruz at July’s Republican National Convention and is active in the Knox County Right to Life, a pro-life organization. Harlan also “does not believe in global warming."
He faulted Vice President Joe Biden’s endorsement of Bustos, wherein Biden called Bustos a “champion” for Illinois families. Harlan holds that that isn’t the case. He has also been critical of Bustos’ stances on the Ozone Standards Implementation Act and the National Defense Authorization Act, as well as other measures.
The Republican is pushing to invest in new locks and dams on the Mississippi River as a way to promote economic growth, compete with the global markets for exports, and decrease our carbon footprint. He claims it would also help Illinois farmers to ship more grain, preventing loss of income from storage fees and potential disease.
Additionally. Harlan is also a proponent of fiscal responsibility and bemoans the nation’s more than $19 trillion in debt. He has criticized Bustos for voting to increase the federal debt limit and being in favor of Obamacare. He claims the program has caused more families to lose healthcare and small businesses to shut down due to the requirements of Obamacare.
The Republican also claims that he would have voted no on the omnibus spending bill, would vote to require work for welfare, would vote to stop any federal dollars going to Planned Parenthood, and would vote to repeal Obamacare.
“When it comes to supporting Illinois families, Cheri Bustos consistently votes the wrong way, siding with corporate elites and party interests over the people she was elected to represent,” Harlan said in a statement. "We need a representative in Congress who will protect manufacturing, support the Rock Island Arsenal and our military, and fight for farmers in our district.”
“If elected in November, Illinois families can rest assured that I will have their back in Washington,” Harlan added.