Former Rep. Bobby Schilling is a Republican, but you wouldn't have known that from his recent speech to workers at the IFH Group factory in Rock Falls.
He is trying to win back the 17th District seat from Rep. Cheri Bustos, the Democrat who beat him in last year's election.
He was introduced by Jim King, IFH Group's CEO, who told his employees he didn't care about their political affiliations.
Schilling wasn't speaking to a partisan audience. The more than 100 employees likely hold diverse political views.
When a worker asked Schilling about health care, Schilling referred to President Barack Obama's trademark law as the Affordable Care Act. He never used the Republicans' preferred term, Obamacare, once considered derisive among Democrats but now more commonly accepted.
Schilling took pains to tell the crowd he liked parts of the law – banning insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions and allowing dependent coverage up to age 26.
He also said he liked community-based clinics that provide affordable rates for low-income folks.
What he didn't like about the Affordable Care Act, he said, was that one party rammed its ideas through without seeking feedback from the other. He didn't name either party.
Often incumbents cruise to re-election, either unopposed or drawing only token opposition.
Bustos is in her first term, and Republicans see her as vulnerable, so they are poised to invest real money into getting the 17th District seat back.
Schilling's has an opponent in the March 18 GOP primary: Eric Reyes, a Quad Cities attorney whose petition is being challenged by Schilling's contributors. I'm not sure why they're expending the effort; Reyes has little chance of winning anyway. Schilling, as a former congressman, has a huge fundraising advantage. Besides, a couple of years ago, Reyes was on record as supporting the Affordable Care Act, an act of heresy in the eyes of most Republicans.
Without serious opposition in the primary, Schilling enjoys the luxury of keeping his eye on the ultimate goal – beating Bustos. No need to tout his conservative credentials.
David Giuliani is a news editor for Sauk Valley Media. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-798-4085, ext. 525. Follow him on twitter: @DGiuliani_SVM.