ROCK FALLS – Bobby Schilling, a Republican who is trying to recapture his congressional seat, told a crowd of factory workers Thursday that he came from nothing, recalling his family’s old, rusted-out Cadillacs when he was growing up.
And he told the more than 100 employees of Rock Falls-based IFH Group that he slept in his Washington office when he served a 2-year term as representative.
Schilling, who lives near the Quad Cities, showed up in boots, jeans and a blazer to speak to the workers, focusing on the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
Schilling lost his re-election bid to Democrat Cheri Bustos last year in the 17th District, which includes Whiteside and Carroll counties. He is running in the March 18 GOP primary. While he has a primary opponent, Eric Reyes, Schilling is favored to win. Bustos is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Schilling was introduced Thursday by the company’s owner, Jim King, who told his employees he didn’t care about their political affiliations.
“What matters is that you’re informed,” he said.
He encouraged them to ask Schilling questions after the ex-congressman’s short speech on the factory floor.
Some clapped upon Schilling’s introduction. A few kept their arms folded.
Schilling, who stood on a riser, told the crowd that both sides in Washington have done damage to the country. He never mentioned either party by name.
He said one party, referring to the Democrats, passed health care reform without seeking the other side’s input.
“Everyone agrees we need health care reform,” he said.
But he said the new law was not achieving its goal – to contain rising health care costs. Instead, he said, insurance companies are canceling policies and hiking rates.
He said he liked parts of the Affordable Care Act – for instance, provisions banning insurance companies from denying policies to people with pre-existing conditions and allowing parents to keep their children on their plans until age 26.
The two parties, he said, should sit down and figure out how to fix the problems.
One worker asked Schilling about people who go to the emergency room for their medical care.
Schilling said he liked community-based clinics that provide affordable rates, although he acknowledged some in his party aren’t enthusiastic about the idea.
“You can take care of problems when they’re small,” he said.
In an interview with Sauk Valley Media afterward, he said he would have voted against the Affordable Care Act, had he been in Congress in 2010. Bustos, his opponent, wouldn’t say how she would have voted on the law during a recent telephone news conference with reporters.
Asked about the government shutdown, which many blamed on Republicans, Schilling said one thing he would have done differently from the GOP leadership is to present a proposal to the Democratic Senate that wouldn’t necessarily be shot down immediately.
On the issue of fundraising, Schilling said he was making 10 to 20 calls a day to potential donors.
“It’s been slow,” he said.
Schilling said Bustos has a “left-wing” donor basis, such as pro-abortion groups, that provide her a lot of money.
Bustos has declined to discuss her fundraising in detail.