Celebrating Women: Rep. Cheri Bustos

Womens History

There are a record number of women serving in Congress and one of them started her career right here in the Quad Cities.

Congresswoman Cheri Bustos is the first woman to be elected to Illinois’ 17th Congressional District — a barrier she broke to help make a difference.

You may have seen her around town. When she’s not working in Washington D.C., Congresswoman Cheri Bustos calls the Quad Cities home. 

Originally from Springfield, she moved to the area after getting her degree in journalism and landed a job writing for the Quad-City Times.

“June 25, 1985 was my very first day in the Quad Cities,” Bustos said. “I started out as a rookie police reporter.”

A job that would lead to love…

“She was a news reporter and I was a young deputy sheriff,” said Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos, who she married in 1986.

“We started raising a family — and I could tell then she had a lot of aspirations,” Gerry Bustos said.

Those aspirations eventually led to two terms on the East Moline City Council, a job in healthcare and finally a run for Congress — something that was inspired by the election of her predecessor.

“My brother was on his death bed at the time of that election,” Cheri Bustos said. “He had a rare form of cancer and he had a good job and what we thought was good health insurance but his health insurance won’t cover the care that his doctor said he needed to stay alive. So we were fortunate enough in my family and help pay for the care that he needed but I also knew that story was not unique to my family. And when the person elected ran on this platform of, no we don’t think everybody should have access to affordable healthcare, my brother died wishing days of that election and it was very much a personal motivation for me to help make a difference.”

In 2012 she won, becoming the first woman elected to Illinois 17th Congressional District.

Now in her fourth term, she is the Democratic Congressional Committee Chair and the only member of Democratic House leadership from the Midwest. She also serves on the House Appropriations Committee.

Which means the Rock Island Arsenal right down the road here, all of the spending that goes into that through the committee that I’m on and it’s my my way looking out for people working here.

She even plays on the Congressional softball team, a group of women — both Democrat and Republican — that play one game a year to raise money for cancer, a sport that was close to her brother’s heart.

“Women… we’re collaborators and relationship builders and it doesn’t matter to me if there’s a Republican across the aisle and I’m a Democrat, if we can find common ground on an issue, I want to work together,” Bustos said.
 

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