Cheri Bustos

Congressional candidacy announcement - Nov. 20, 2011

Cheri Bustos
November 20, 2011
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Thank you, everybody, for coming. I am seeing some people who I have not seen in a long time, and it means a lot to me that you guys are here. Thank you so much. Andy, thank you for that introduction. I swear I did not write that. That means a lot to me as well. It does. As Andy alluded to, I am an East Moline city council member, but I am not a professional politician. I don't have a famous name. I am an everyday working woman, and all I want to do is make a difference. What I do have is a track record of problem-solving and a reputation for getting the job done on time at work and at home. What we need as a country is more of just that. We need problem-solving and getting the job done. We need to work together and move forward. That is why I am here today to announce that I am a candidate for the 17th district as a congressperson.

My focus of the campaign will be, above all else, on jobs and manufacturing, and of course, what we, as Democrats, cherish most, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which are under attack. Here is why those are important. From a personal perspective, within the last year, my husband Jerry and I have both lost siblings. Jerry's sister Barb was diagnosed with cancer. While she was fully employed, she didn't have health insurance, but she and her husband made too much money to be on Medicaid. She fell between the cracks just like so many others. She was not able to get the optimal treatment because she was not insured.

Even those with health insurance are not guaranteed proper care. My brother Danny died eight months ago. He had a great job, a wife and two young daughters. He was fully insured, yet his health plan wouldn't cover the treatment because it was deemed "experimental." His friends held fundraisers to help pay for his medical costs. He was my big brother, and he was only 52 years old.

These are stories that are all too familiar. We have all been to the convenience store where there is the fundraising notice taped to the cash register, or we have driven by the convenience store or the bank where it's listed on a marquee a fundraiser for somebody who needs help for their medical expenses. This can happen to your neighbors, it can happen to your friends, and it can happen to your family just like it happened to mine.

There is so much we need to do in Washington, and it is not getting done. We need new leadership committed to creating practical solutions important to working families and to the middle class; solutions that generate good jobs at good wages, a sustainable health system available to every American at an affordable cost, and real financial security when we retire. I can tell you how we will not do it. We will not do it by dividing Americans by age with our seniors shouldering the burden after a lifetime of paying their share. But what we can and must do is modernize, yet preserve, our legacy as the party of good-paying union jobs with benefits.

I look at this district, not only in the Quad Cities, Rockford and Peoria, but also from the town of Lomax to Lewistown and Lena to Lanark. I see an area ripe for resurgence for our manufacturing economy. I see a manufacturing triangle anchored by the large population centers but also clustered in the smaller towns like Cordova, Galesburg and Canton, where recently announcements were made of manufacturing facilities opening or expanding. We have what it takes right here in northern, western, and central Illinois to be a hub for manufacturing, not just in the Midwest but in the United States. We have the skilled workforce. We have the brain power, and our educational institutions provide also the infrastructure and innovation capacity. We also have that Midwestern work ethic and resilience that cannot and will not be matched by any other region in this nation. We need to tell that story here, across the country and around the world.

This is not just campaign rhetoric. I do have a plan. I will host an annual economic summit and bring together leaders and innovators from education, business, agriculture, health care and government from across the district. We will generate ideas and even be bold enough to find solutions on how to make this area "the" destination for manufacturing.

To help make that happen, we will look at an emerging trend we call "reshoring." It means manufacturing firms bringing back their facilities to the United States to take advantage of our better trained employees and infrastructure. Reshoring can be just one wall of the foundation for the growth of this area.

If you are wondering what is motivating me to run for Congress, especially in this kind of prickly political climate, you might be wondering how can I—I am a working mom from East Moline—how can I make a difference in Washington.

I believe what we need are more everyday people who are raising families on two incomes, who clip coupons before they go to the grocery store and who have to balance their checkbooks. People who live life with a practical, common sense approach. It is time for some of those professional politicians to exit and more people like us to enter and steer this country back on track.

I want to be the voice for hardworking, ordinary people. I have dedicated my entire career to standing up for those without a voice: the powerless, the underdog. It is why I went into journalism, and it is why I went into health care. I wanted to, and I still want to make a difference.

I was a writer and an editor in the Quad Cities for about 17 years. I learned how to ask the tough questions and not take "no" for an answer, just like our reporters here today. But what meant the most to me as a journalist was the difference I felt I was able to make. The stories that come to mind, and they have a health care connection, was when I covered stories about child abuse. There was a rash of mothers' boyfriends who severely injured or killed their children. There were also the stories about children with toothaches who would be crying in pain but couldn't get the help they needed because there were not dentists who would take kids on Medicaid. What I am most proud of, though, is that these stories resulted in legislative changes and changes in policy. That makes me proud. These are stories, though, that gave voice to those who were not able to speak for themselves.

For the past decade now, I have worked in health care, and I have witnessed up close unprecedented changes, just like there are many people here in this room who I have worked with over the years. You guys have seen the unprecedented changes in health care. I feel good about the work that we have been able to accomplish when I have been at Trinity and with its parent organization to make health care more accessible to more people while improving the quality of care and reducing waste and inefficiency.

While that may be rewarding personally, I am worried that ordinary people, and in particular our senior citizens, are being left out as an afterthought to some elitist, out of touch, economic theory. I ask myself, is the America we live in today, with political squabbling—and worse, the political paralysis—the America our fathers and our mothers wanted to hand down to us? More importantly, is this the America that we want to hand down to our children and our grandchildren? I don't think so. We have a duty to step up and correct the direction of this nation, to be bold and innovation, to solve problems, put people back to work, reinvigorate the middle class, and move forward together.

I am not a career politician, I don't have a famous name, I really am just a working mother who wants to continue to make a difference. I am Cheri Bustos, and I am running to serve the people of the 17th congressional district. I am committed to moving forward together, and I ask you to be committed with me.

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