Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Rep. Cheri Bustos, whose rural strength made her a useful adviser to other Democrats, says she won't seek re-election

Rep. Cheri Bustos
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos of northwest Illinois, a leading voice for rural interests in the Democratic Party, surprised her colleagues Monday by saying that she would not seek an sixth two-year term in 2022.

“As I turn every corner on each decade of life, I take time to reflect and evaluate what my next chapter might bring,” Bustos said in a prepared statement. “That’s how, 10 years ago, I decided to run for Congress. And it’s why, today, I am announcing I will not seek re-election.”

As campaign chair for House Democrats in the last election cycle, Bustos tried to increase the party's appeal to rural voters but came up short. "Democrats expected to expand their majority. Instead, they lost 13 seats," notes Chuck Abbott of Successful Farming. Bustos resigned as campaign chair but stayed on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's leadership team as co-chair of the caucus Steering Committee.

Bustos, of East Moline, was re-elected in the 17th District "by 4 percentage points, compared to a 24-point romp two years earlier," Abbott notes. "The race — a prime target of Republican campaign operatives — reflected the surprisingly tight margins in many races, particularly in rural areas, around the country," Politico notes. Her 2020 foe, Republicam Esther Joy King, is running again.

"Her decision also reflected the shrinking influence of the farm and industrial heartland in the House," Abbott writes. Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia writes, "Her strength with rural voters made her insights valuable to both Democratic leadership and other candidates; she won her first three reelection campaigns by double-digits in an Obama-to-Trump district."

Bustos, 59, is a former reporter and editor for the Quad City Times, based in Davenport, Iowa. She worked in health-care public relations for a decade and was a council member in East Moline (which makes the Quad Cities really the Quint Cities; the others are Rock Island, Ill., and Bettendorf, Iowa.)

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