There are several similarities between the candidates in Illinois’s 17th Congressional District, which includes Democratic-leaning chunks from Rockford and Peoria as well as wrapping through the Quad Cities and across rural northwestern Illinois.
First-term Republican incumbent Bobby Schilling of Colona, a restaurateur elected with conservative backing in 2010, takes some positions not unlike his Democratic challenger, former East Moline alderwoman and health care executive Cheri Bustos.
Both want to see more manufacturing jobs in their district, pointing to companies like John Deere, Caterpillar and the aerospace industry in Rockford as excellent opportunities.
Bustos wants to see educational partnerships to bridge the skills gap.
“We still have jobs that aren’t being filled because there’s a skills gap. We want to work with community colleges to make sure that they have programs in place that can help train workers to fill the jobs that are going unfilled right now.” - Cheri Bustos
Both want tax incentives for “reshoring” business operations. Both talk about tax reform. Schilling wants to see a more stable business climate.
“The more certainty we create, the more people that we have that are creating jobs that pull money out of the sidelines and invest into their American companies and put more people back to work, because that creates more taxes for the government which allows us to get the budget under control.” - Bobby Schilling
Neither is in favor of right-to-work laws. Both cite union backgrounds and say contracts are made to be honored. For government employees, both see the need to reform benefits, and they share a belief that government contracts also should be honored.
Bustos favors existing wind tax credits and wants to see renewable energy flourish.
“We need to get away from our reliance on foreign oil and I think to have a sustainable energy policy is part of that. We need to make sure that the tax credits that are already in place remain in place and that we build upon our green energy movement that we have going.” - Cheri Bustos
Schilling says he believes in “all of the above,” including natural gas, increased oil drilling, and clean coal as well as green energy, but without government subsidy.
“It’s one thing to have the government come in and to get things off the ground but it’s another thing to have them constantly, year in and year out, subsidize the different pieces of energy.” - Bobby Schilling
On foreign policy, Schilling says he favors a walk softly with a big stick approach.
“We’ve gotta have strong leadership, and when we say you know if you do this our word is our word and know that there will be some kind of action if you come in and attack the United States of America.” - Bobby Schilling
Bustos says our first efforts in foreign policy should be peaceful.
“I think to look at any kind of conflict where we would send in troops’ we have to make sure we’ve exhausted diplomacy and sanctions before we do anything else.” - Cheri Bustos
Schilling links abortion rights to women’s health insurance issues and. wants to see abortion eliminated or very severely restricted. Bustos says she wants them to be safe legal and rare.
“A decision such as that should be made among a woman, her family, her faith and her doctor; and I don’t think it’s a place where a government needs to be making those kinds of decisions.” - Cheri Bustos
On marriage, both candidates believe that the government should not dictate a church’s definition of marriage, although Schilling says it’s quite clear that marriage is between a man and a woman.
“It’s a church issue; it’s not a federal issue whatsoever. If two men or two women want to get married then they’ve got to find a church that does that.” - Bobby Schilling
As far as why each is the best choice, Schilling says he’s a center right guy who votes against his party to benefit the district and has worked with a Democrat across the river to accomplish that. Bustos says her opponent is part of the gridlock in Washington and she’ll make a change.