Cheri Bustos
Co-Chair of the House Democratic Steering Committee
In office
January 3, 2021 – January 3, 2023
LeaderNancy Pelosi
Preceded byRosa DeLauro
Succeeded byDan Kildee
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
In office
January 3, 2019 – January 3, 2021
LeaderNancy Pelosi
Preceded byBen Ray Luján
Succeeded bySean Patrick Maloney
Co-Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee
In office
January 3, 2017 – January 3, 2019
Preceded bySteve Israel (Chair)
Succeeded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 17th district
In office
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2023
Preceded byBobby Schilling
Succeeded byEric Sorensen
Personal details
Cheryl Lea Callahan

(1961-10-17) October 17, 1961 (age 62)
Springfield, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseGerry Bustos
RelativesJoseph R. Callahan (grandfather)

Cheryl Lea Bustos (/ˈbsts/ BOOST-ohss; née Callahan; born October 17, 1961) is an American journalist, healthcare executive, and politician who served as the U.S. representative from Illinois's 17th congressional district from 2013 to 2023. A member of the Democratic Party, she is the first woman elected to Congress from her district in the northwestern part of the state, anchored by the Illinois side of the Quad Cities and partially including Peoria and Rockford.[1] In 2019, Bustos became chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).[2]

Elected to the East Moline City Council in 2007, Bustos defeated Republican Party incumbent Bobby Schilling in the 2012 election and a 2014 rematch.[3] In 2021, Bustos and Senator Dick Durbin were the only Democrats in Illinois's congressional delegation who are not from the Chicago area. On April 30, 2021, she announced that she would retire at the end of the 117th U.S. Congress.[4]

In January 2023, the Washington, DC-based public affairs and lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs announced that Bustos had joined the firm as a consultant.[5]

Early life, education, and private sector career

Bustos was born in Springfield, Illinois, one of three children of Gene and Ann Callahan. Her grandfather Joseph R. Callahan was a hog farmer and a state legislator.[6][7] "We had governors over to our house. We had lieutenant governors", Bustos has said.[8]

Her father worked for The State Journal-Register, then served as assistant press secretary to Governor Samuel Shapiro, press secretary to Lieutenant Governor Paul Simon, and chief of staff to U.S. Senator Alan Dixon.[9] As a girl she babysat Dick Durbin's children.[10] Her mother worked as a teacher.[11]

Bustos graduated from Springfield High School in 1979. She attended Illinois College, then transferred to the University of Maryland, College Park, from which she received a bachelor's degree in political science in 1983. From 1983 to 1984, Bustos interned with the Illinois Senate Democrats.[12] She went on to receive a master's degree in journalism from the University of Illinois Springfield in 1985.[11][13]

In 1985, Bustos moved to the Quad Cities to work as a night-shift police reporter for the Quad-City Times.[7] She worked there for 17 years, first as a reporter and then as an editor.[11]

From 2001 to 2007, Bustos worked as senior director of corporate communications for Trinity Regional Health Systems.[14] From 2008 to 2011, she worked as vice president of corporate communications for Iowa Health System; in her last full year, she received overall compensation of $306,295.[15]

East Moline City Council


In 2007, Bustos ran for the East Moline City Council from that city's 4th Ward. She won the Democratic primary with 45% of the vote,[16] and won the general election unopposed.[17][18] In 2011, she was reelected unopposed.[19]


Before being elected in 2007, Bustos served on East Moline's Citizen Advisory Committee and the East Moline Plan Commission.[citation needed] In 2009, she received an Athena Business Women's Award.[20]

In February 2010, Bustos secured state and federal money to purchase a $40,000 electronic welcome sign that was placed at the border of East Moline.[21]

In August 2010, Bustos voted for water and sewer rate hikes.[22] In January 2011, she expressed interest in charging residents who do not recycle extra fees to lower the city's landfill costs.[23] In April 2011, Bustos voted for a budget that raised property taxes 4.9% and raised garbage collection fees, saying, "these decisions have been made thoughtfully and thoroughly and during the course of 17 open and public budget sessions."[24] She also supported water and sewage increases.[25]

Bustos was criticized for voting for a $624,000 project to improve 10th Street in East Moline, which runs adjacent to her house; the Schilling campaign dubbed it the "Bustos Parkway".[26] Schilling's claim was called "reckless, irresponsible fiction" by the editorial board of the Quad-City Times.[27]

After being elected to a second term in May 2011, Bustos resigned in September to focus on her campaign for Congress.[28]

Committee assignments

U.S. House of Representatives



Main article: 2012 United States House of Representatives elections in Illinois § District 17

Bustos was endorsed by about two dozen unions active in the 17th congressional district, including the Illinois AFL–CIO, AFSCME and the United Auto Workers.[30] During the primary, she was endorsed by Dick Durbin.[31] Durbin asked State Senator Dave Koehler and Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp to drop out of the race to clear the way for Bustos, a close family friend of his.[32] Gaulrapp reported that during a meeting with Durbin about withdrawing, Durbin said that Bustos had babysat for his family and was a close friend.[32] Bustos won the Democratic primary on March 20, 2012, defeating Gaulrapp and businessman Greg Aguilar 54% to 26% to 20%.[33][34][35] In a July 2012 article, Bustos wrote that she was running for Congress in order to create good-paying jobs for middle-class Americans, including many "whose jobs are being shipped to China."[36]

In the general election, Bustos was one of 39 candidates considered to be the most viable challengers against Republican incumbents to benefit from "Red to Blue" program offered by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.[37] She was endorsed by the Quad-City Times.[38] In November, she defeated incumbent Republican Bobby Schilling 53% to 47%.[39] She received a significant boost from redistricting, which replaced Quincy, Decatur and the district's portion of Springfield with the more Democratic portions of Peoria and Rockford. She is the first Democrat to represent a significant portion of Peoria since 1927, and only the second Democrat since the 1850s to represent a significant portion of Rockford.[40]

In July 2017, Bustos and Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and David Cicilline co-authored a CNN op-ed charging that thanks to Republicans, "the economy isn't working the way it should", and promising that their own economic plan would create "millions of good-paying, full-time jobs" and "build an economy that puts Americans first."[41]

After entering the House, Bustos made national headlines by "interviewing colleagues and posting the short videos on her personal Snapchat account."[42]


Main article: 2014 United States House of Representatives elections in Illinois § District 17

Bustos was challenged by Schilling for reelection in 2014.[43]

In a 2012 interview with the Chicago Tribune editorial board, Bustos expressed support for legislation that would cut congressional pay by 10%. When asked by a member of the board if she would voluntarily give up 10% of her pay should the legislation fail, she said she would. During the 2014 campaign, she said, "When I was in Chicago, I said something that I shouldn't have said, but I never said it on the campaign trail. I never made it as a promise to the people in the 17th congressional district."[44][45][46][47] The Tribune endorsed Schilling.[48]

As they did in October 2012, Bustos and Schilling agreed to debate at the WQAD-TV News 8 studio on October 9, 2014, with Good Morning Quad Cities anchor Jim Mertens as moderator.[49]

Bustos defeated Schilling in the November 4 general election, 55% to 45%.[50][51]


Bustos was reelected to the House in the 2016 general election, defeating Republican nominee Patrick Harlan, an insurance agent,[52] truck driver, and local Tea Party activist.[53]

In a long profile of Bustos on May 12, 2017, Politico noted that in 2016 she was the only Democrat to win a House seat by a more than 20-point margin in a district that Trump also won. "If Democrats are going to wrest control of the House from Republicans, argue many party strategists, it's going to happen in large part by doing more of whatever it is Bustos is doing three hours west of Chicago in her nearly 7,000-square-mile district of small towns and soybean fields", Politico wrote. Calling her "one of the party's rising stars", Politico quoted her as saying, "I'm a little bit of a different kind of Democrat."[7]


In the 2018 election, Bustos was challenged by Bill Fawell, a real estate broker who attracted media attention for his conspiracy claims that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job perpetrated by the U.S. government.[54] Bustos was reelected with 61.9% of the vote to Fawell's 38.1%.

Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Bustos was elected by her peers to serve as Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2020 election.[55] During her term, Bustos led the organization to a record fundraising year and maintained the Democratic majority in the House.[56] After Bustos chose not to seek a second term as chair,[57] Speaker Nancy Pelosi nominated her to co-chair the House Democratic Steering Committee,[58] replacing Rosa DeLauro, who was elected Chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

Potential runs for other offices

Bustos considered running for the U.S. Senate in the 2016 election, but announced in March 2015 that she would not.[59]

In September 2016, reports emerged that Bustos was a possible candidate for Governor of Illinois in the 2018 election.[60] In February 2017, Bustos declined to run in that election.[61]

During the election for Speaker of the United States House of Representatives in January 2019, Bustos received 4 votes, from Joe Cunningham of South Carolina; Jared Golden of Maine; Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey; and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, instead of their party's nominee, Nancy Pelosi.[62]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Political positions

Shortly after taking office, Bustos joined the bipartisan No Labels group.[65] In the first session of the 115th United States Congress, she was ranked the 28th most bipartisan member of the House by the Bipartisan Index, a metric published by The Lugar Center and Georgetown's McCourt School of Public Policy to assess congressional bipartisanship.[66]

Economic issues

In 2013, Bustos's first sponsored legislation was to create a congressional government waste reduction board.[67][68]

Bustos has said she wants to create a "manufacturing triangle" connecting Peoria, the Quad Cities, and Rockford and anchored by Caterpillar, John Deere, and the aerospace industry, respectively. She supports putting in place job-training programs at area community colleges to better prepare workers for skilled jobs in manufacturing.[69]

Bustos opposed a full extension of the Bush tax cuts.[70]

She does not support lowering salaries or pensions for federal government employees.[71]

During a debate, Bustos opposed the three trade agreements approved by Congress in 2011 for being "NAFTA-style" and said they would result in job losses for Illinois.[71]

In 2016, Bustos sponsored legislation exempting minor league baseball players from minimum wage laws.[72]

Foreign policy

In March 2012 Bustos called for cuts in defense spending.[15]

In August 2015, Bustos announced her support for President Barack Obama's Iran nuclear deal. "While the agreement is not perfect, it is the right step for our national security and the security of the global community", she said. "With this agreement, Iran's stockpiles of enriched uranium will be reduced and the country will be opened up to strict transparency and monitoring, including robust on-the-ground nuclear inspectors".[73][74]

In October 2015, Bustos went to Cuba on a trip organized by the Illinois Cuba Working Group. In January 2016, she backed a bill to remove barriers to trade with Cuba.[75] In March 2016, Bustos was part of the congressional delegation that took part in Obama's trip to Cuba and said that Cuba represented a "huge trade opportunity" for the US "when it comes to agriculture".[76]

Donald Trump

In a December 2016 interview, Bustos said she would "make every attempt to work with President Donald Trump where we can find common ground" but "if he takes us down a dark place, then we're going to have a fight on our hands."[77] During an April 2017 interview, she "verbally thrashed President Trump". The same month, she said that his first 100 days in office had been "a disaster" and that his health care plan would rip out "the beating heart of rural America". Politico described her as "practically...taunting Trump". She said that if she were president, "in my first 100 days, I'd want to have a lot of wins—and, you know, I wouldn't want to have wins that I have to lie about."[7]

In June 2017, Bustos argued that her party's "anti-Trump" message was not a winning electoral formula.[78]

In December 2017, Bustos signed a letter asking for a House investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct against Trump.[79]

Women's rights

Responding in 2016 to People v. Turner, Bustos said that there is a need for more women in Congress in order to bring greater attention to the issue of sexual assault.[80]

In February 2018, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan announced that a group of three legislators, including Bustos, would serve on an independently funded panel that would "lead a statewide discussion about the role of women in the Democratic party and how to 'change the culture of politics.'"[81] In April, she withdrew from the panel, citing criticism by the House Ethics Committee and legal advisers.[82]


Bustos was one of six House Democrats to vote against the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act to legalize cannabis at the federal level in 2020.[83] She said she voted against it because it lacked clarity on what constitutes a nonviolent offense.[84]

Health care and abortion

Bustos supports the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare).[85] She supports legal abortion.[86] She also supported Obama's order that all health plans cover birth control and "morning after" pills.[87]


Bustos supports the DREAM Act.[87]

Electoral history

East Moline, Illinois Alderman Ward 4 General Election, 2007[88]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cheri Bustos 234 100.0
Total votes 234 100.0
East Moline, Illinois Alderman Ward 4 General Election, 2011[89]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cheri Bustos (incumbent) 55 100.0
Total votes 55 100.0
Illinois 17th Congressional District Democratic Primary, 2012[90]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cheri Bustos 18,652 54.40
Democratic George Gaulrapp 8,838 25.78
Democratic Greg Aguilar 6,798 19.83
Total votes 34,288 100.0
Illinois 17th Congressional District General Election, 2012[91]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cheri Bustos 153,519 53.28
Republican Bobby Schilling (incumbent) 134,623 46.72
Write-in votes Eric Reyes 10 0.00
Write-in votes Joe Faber 9 0.00
Total votes 288,161 100.0
Illinois 17th Congressional District General Election, 2014[92]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cheri Bustos (incumbent) 110,560 55.46
Republican Bobby Schilling 88,785 44.53
Write-in votes Bill Fawell 16 0.01
Total votes 199,361 100.0
Illinois 17th Congressional District General Election, 2016[93]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cheri Bustos (incumbent) 173,125 60.31
Republican Patrick Harlan 113,943 39.69
Total votes 287,068 100.0
Illinois 17th Congressional District General Election, 2018[94]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cheri Bustos (incumbent) 142,659 62.09
Republican William W. "Bill" Fawell 87,090 37.91
Total votes 229,749 100.0
Illinois's 17th congressional district, 2020[95][96]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Cheri Bustos (incumbent) 156,011 52.02 -10.07%
Republican Esther Joy King 143,863 47.97 +10.06%
Write-in 21 0.01 N/A
Total votes 299,895 100.0
Democratic hold

Later career

In January 2023, the Washington, DC-based public affairs and lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs announced that Bustos had joined the firm as a consultant.[5] In March 2023, it was announced that Bustos will co-teach a campaign methods course at Monmouth College in the Fall semester of 2023.[97]

Personal life

Bustos met and married Gerry Bustos, a Quad Cities local, not long after moving to the Quad Cities. He is the Rock Island County Sheriff and commander of the Quad City Bomb Squad.[98] They have three sons and two grandchildren.[7] Bustos is Catholic.[99]

See also


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  3. ^ Levine, Sam (November 5, 2014). "Cheri Bustos Defeats Bobby Schilling In Illinois". The Huffington Post. New York City. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
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  99. ^ Religious affiliation of members of 117th Congress
U.S. House of Representatives Preceded byBobby Schilling Member of the U.S. House of Representativesfrom Illinois's 17th congressional district 2013–2023 Succeeded byEric Sorensen Party political offices Preceded bySteve Israel Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee 2017–2019 Served alongside: David Cicilline, Hakeem Jeffries Succeeded byDavid Cicilline Preceded byBen Ray Luján Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee 2019–2021 Succeeded bySean Patrick Maloney Preceded byRosa DeLauro Chair of the House Democratic Steering Committee 2021–2023 Succeeded byDan KildeeDebbie Wasserman Schultz U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial) Preceded byThomas W. Ewingas Former US Representative Order of precedence of the United Statesas Former US Representative Succeeded byRodney Davisas Former US Representative