By Chris M. Stevens
How often voters wail, "Why can't people like me, serve in Congress?" Fortunately for residents of the 17th Congressional District of Illinois, Cheri Bustos, a candidate who is "just like us' has emerged.
The long-married mother of three sons and 2 grandchildren, Bustos served as a city council member for East Moline residents.
Bustos' life experience illustrates a kinship and commonality with workers: 10 years as a communications specialist with Iowa Health Systems after 17 years as an investigative reporter. Her years as a reporter had brought national recognition for her exposure of political corruption and child abuse.
With an economy in recovery and poised to continue to improve, Bustos acknowledges the importance of the looming contest. "The election in November is very critical to our future," Bustos says. "But, this victory isn't about me, it's about the voters. It's about the soul of America and the type of country they want to live in."
A former colleague of Bustos when she worked as a reporter for the Quad City Times, Scott Reeder, who now writes for the Illinois Statehouse Reporter, listed her "ordinariness' in an article in the online edition of the Dispatch-Argus.
Reeder, who admits his political leanings differ from Bustos, defends her grasp of everyday life for most Americans. He mentions when they both worked second shift Bustos' husband, Gerry, then a deputy sheriff and now a captain, often also worked nights. Reeder remembers the two parents spent considerable time and effort to secure child care; Bustos drove used cars loaded down with hockey gear for her three sons; Bustos and her husband raised their family in a typical working class home; Bustos wore hand-me-down clothing "and paid her dues working second shift, weekends and holidays for low pay," Reeder says, adding, "so, when I hear Cheri dresses too nice, or was too successful in her career to understand how ordinary people live, I can only say this, nonsense."
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin visited Peoria to offer support for Bustos and told the crowd, "As a working mother with three sons, Cheri is all too familiar with the issues that average Americana face every day. In these tough economic times, Cheri Bustos is the right person at the right time to send to congress. Cheri's background as a tough investigative journalist, health care advocate and community leader provides a unique perspective on what it takes to save and create jobs.
"Washington is too often mired in game-playing, finger-pointing and gridlock and Cheri has a track record of breaking through such nonsense and getting results. As a health care professional Cheri has seen the problems in our system first hand and will be an important voice in expanding health coverage to more Americans."
Bustos demonstrates a personal stake in health care which stretches beyond professional, when she informed the crowd. "Washington needs more ordinary people with the values we all share. Let me talk with you for a moment about why I'm running. Last year we lost my brother to a rare form of cancer. Danny, along with being a husband, a father to two girls and a wonderful human being, was also someone who was fortunate enough to have a job and good health insurance. Yet, when his insurance deemed the treatments he needed to be "experimental' they refused to cover his health care costs, and our family was forced to pay out of pocket.
"We, as a family, and his friends, all pitched in. We held fundraisers and we prayed. I thought to myself, how is it that in the greatest country in the world someone with a full-time job and full health insurance can be denied coverage?
"This is a scenario that is repeated over and over in this district, this state and this nation. We can do better. I know we can."
Bustos has garnered support from former U.S. Senator (1971 -- 1981) from Illinois Adlai Stevenson III. Well known for his ability to work with both sides of the political aisle, Stevenson stands squarely in Bustos' corner when he says, "Americans pay a high price for the incivility, excessive partisanship and corruption in congress. Such chaos divides the country undermines our economy. Cheri Bustos is someone who will help congress focus on getting things done."
President Michael Carrigan, Illinois AFL-CIO, reinforces the appeal of Bustos to working men and woman when he says, "She is a candidate well-deserving of our full support and endorsement."
Bustos welcomes the support from organized labor when she says, "It means a great deal to me to receive the endorsement of an organization dedicated to maintaining and
expanding the middle class," adding, "people are fed up, like I am, with the political nonsense and chaos in Washington, D.C."