DEER GROVE – U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos was on hand to rally the troops for the area Democrats’ sixth annual JFK Dinner held Thursday at Deer Valley Country Club.
Organized by the counties’ Democratic Central Committees, the event is an important fundraiser that brings together the party faithful from Bureau, Carroll, Ogle, Lee, Rock Island and Whiteside counties.
Bustos, D-East Moline, was elected chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in November. In that capacity, she plays a key leadership role in retaining and expanding the Democratic majority in the 2020 election cycle.
There are 31 Democrats in Congress, including Bustos, who are serving in districts won by President Donald Trump. While the 17th District congresswoman admits it will require a lot of hard work to hang on to seats, many of them in rural districts, she thinks the party is re-energized and up to the task.
“People are fired up because they know what’s at stake in the next election,” Bustos said. “Democrats are delivering on the promises they made in the last election and are showing that we are the party that gets things done.”
Unfortunately, the theater environment in the Trump White House has detracted from the real work that is being done in Washington, Bustos said.
“We’ve passed 52 significant pieces of legislation in the first 150 days of this Congress, including seven bills to lower health care costs,” Bustos said. “We also passed the biggest anticorruption legislation since the Watergate days.”
Progress is being made on immigration and there has been a “good-faith effort” on an infrastructure deal, she said.
While talk of impeachment hasn’t died in the wake of the Mueller Report release, Bustos said her constituents are most concerned about two things: Working in a bipartisan manner to get things done, and receiving help with skyrocketing health care costs, including prescription drugs.
Bustos told the group of more than 200 in Deer Grove to stay active politically and work to infuse the local party structure with new blood.
“While I love all of the gray hair and wrinkles, we need to get more young people engaged in the party,” Bustos said.
The local party leaders were also feeling good about what is being accomplished in Springfield with a Democrat in the governor’s office and a party majority in both legislative chambers. They say Trump’s victory has solidified the party and momentum continues to build at the local level.
“In the April election, we saw people more willing to come out and help the party. More people are attending meetings and interested in running for office since the previous presidential election,” said Rick Wilkin, Democratic Party chairman in Bureau County.
The original goal was to always have the JFK dinner on May 29 – the birthday of the nation’s 35th president. The event was moved back a week, however, to accommodate state legislators who were still in spring session.