Incumbent U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., will face a Tea Party activist and political newcomer in her bid for re-election.
Patrick Harlan, a Republican from Galesburg, will challenge Bustos in the Nov. 8 general election. Bustos is seeking a third term representing Illinois’ 17th Congressional District, which includes Jo Daviess County.
Harlan, an insurance agent, has been running a self-funded campaign touting his pro-life beliefs. He has attacked Bustos’ support for what he sees as overbearing federal clean-air and water initiatives that harm U.S. manufacturers and farmers.
Harlan, an ardent Donald Trump supporter, said it’s time for a “blue-collar, middle-class working man” who “represents good, hardworking family values” to represent the district.
“I believe in limited government,” Harlan said. “And I believe small businesses can stimulate the economy, and (Bustos) believes the federal government can.”
Bustos touted her record in Congress supporting efforts to grow U.S. manufacturing, cut government waste to protect Social Security and Medicare, and reduce the backlog of veteran compensation and disability claims.
“Voters would see me as public servant who fights for them and works very hard and gets results,” Bustos said.
She noted her work to pass a five-year farm bill and ensure it included a “robust crop insurance program.” She also supported stronger safety standards for the transportation of flammable materials by rail.
A member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Bustos also helped pass bipartisan legislation to speed up repairs and upgrades to the aging locks and dams on the Mississippi River.
Bustos and Harlan have clashed over federal spending for passenger rail service between Chicago and Moline. Harlan argues the investment is a waste of money, while Bustos contends the project will create jobs and provide a valuable service.
On health care, Harlan called the Affordable Care Act “garbage” that needs to be repealed.
He argues Americans have been lied to about the costs of coverage and past promises that people could keep their own doctors haven’t always been fulfilled.
“It needs to go back to a free market. There is no right to health care,” Harlan said.
He feels charities are more than capable of providing financial assistance to the tens of millions of Americans previously priced out of the market or denied coverage.
Bustos said the law has represented a “monumental” step forward, leading to a historic reduction in the number of uninsured. It also has helped close the “donut hole” coverage gap in Medicare prescription drug plans that was costing seniors thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.
“I think it is unconscionable insurance companies could discriminate against women simply because of their gender ... and that insurance companies could knock you out of the system for a pre-existing condition,” she said. “All of that has been fixed. I want to fix what’s broken and keep what’s been successful.”
On immigration, Harlan said the U.S. needs to “seal up the borders and stop taking in refugees.”
“We’ve got to lock our doors, because you don’t know who is coming through,” he said.
Bustos said she supports reform “that strengthens our borders and cracks down on unscrupulous business men and women who take advantage of” undocumented workers.
“It requires anyone in the country illegally go to the back of the line and go through proper channels,” she said. “Those people who are causing chaos and are criminals need to go back to wherever they came from. Otherwise, we need a path (to citizenship) for people who want to be contributing American citizens.”