STERLING – After months of arduous campaigning, candidates for Congress in the 17th District will cross the finish line today.
It’s one of the most hotly contested congressional races in the country. At times, the campaign has been ugly.
In the final days leading up to Election Day, both Republican Rep. Bobby Schilling, of Colona, and Democrat Cheri Bustos, of East Moline, launched tours of the district to focus on jobs. Visits took them across the district, which includes all of Whiteside County.
Schilling’s 14-stop “Bob’s for Jobs” tour was intended to focus on meeting with small business owners and manufacturers, among other groups.
On Monday, each candidate wasted no time making a final pitch to voters before the big day.
Schilling began the day with a rally in Sterling at the Grandon Civic Center downtown. He met with supporters to get them fired up.
In an interview after the rally, Schilling said the race is expected to cost the two candidates and their supporters almost $10 million.
“That bothers me, because here we have people struggling, we got Hurricane Sandy, we could be sending that money to people that truly need it rather than wasting it,” he said. “We’ve got to have some type of reform.”
Schilling’s last official day campaigning also was scheduled to include stops in Kewanee and East Moline.
Meanwhile, Bustos spent Monday afternoon in Freeport. In recent weeks, she has campaigned across the street from Sensata Technologies, which develops and makes sensors and controls for auto companies. Sensata is owned by Bain Capital, formerly run by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Bustos has attempted to link Schilling to the plant’s closure and loss of 170 jobs, often saying he supports policies that send jobs overseas.
Her ‘Right Priorities Tour’ was intended to “highlight the need to end outsourcing of American jobs,” according to a campaign release.
“My visit to Freeport this afternoon before the election is merely the conclusion of a long journey across Illinois, where I have repeatedly met the faces of Congress’ failed priorities,” Bustos said in an emailed statement.
Schilling said the decision to close the Freeport plant was made before he was elected.
After redistricting, much of the district was new territory.
While each has made appearances in Rockford and other new cities to the district, Sauk Valley Media asked the candidates how they go beyond simply shaking hands in a city to actually impacting change.
“This job is truly about building relationships,” Schilling said.
He said he had met with teachers in Sterling and doctors in other communities to learn more about important issues to them and to build partnerships.
In response to the same question, Bustos, too, said she had worked to build relationships.
“This week alone, I’ve met with local leaders in Canton, Sterling, Rock Falls, Peoria, Rockford, Galesburg and the Quad Cities,” she said in an email.
Bustos pointed to recent visits with Sterling Mayor Skip Lee and Rock Falls Mayor David Blanton as evidence she is focusing on what matters to the Sauk Valley. She also painted herself as a candidate who would help eliminate gridlock.
“Right now, gridlock in Congress has killed too many good ideas because both sides can’t work together,” she said.
Schilling said the key to ending the gridlock is looking for people who want to “move things forward.”
Both candidates are scheduled to be in Rock Island tonight for campaign parties as the results come in.