PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Illinois’ 17th Congressional district race is a free-for-all this year, as Rep. Cheri Bustos is retiring after ten years of serving in the position.
Republican voters have two choices for the upcoming primary: Esther Joy King, an Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer who wants to work across the aisle, and Charlie Helmick, who calls himself an “America First” conservative.
King, a captain in the Army JAG core, ran in 2020 against Bustos. She lost by four percentage points, but said this time she is going to win.
“I’m running again to bring a voice to central and western Illinois,” said King.
King said the country is extremely divided, and she wants to bring Americans together.
“We have absolutely got to find a way to work together as Americans. When I look at people around me, I don’t see Democrat, Republican, or sides. We’re so divided, side against side, but really I see neighbors…It’s having the conversation, asking what matters to you, being willing to listen and take that in. Have a genuine dialogue, rather than a partisan point-making effort,” she said.
She said she believes she can work with Democrats in Congress to move the country forward.
“I believe I have the capacity to influence and to make a difference bringing people together… We agree on the majority of our perspectives and finding pathways forward in that regard,” she said.
King said Congress is out of touch with regular people, who want to focus on kitchen-table issues.
“When I’m out talking to people, 10 times out of 10 they are concerned with the cost of living right now. Everybody’s wondering how am I going to afford gas? How am I going to afford food for my kids?” she said.
Helmick is an insurance agent, small business owner, and retired Marine.
“Every job I’ve ever had has been dealing with the public. I have a servant’s heart… it’s been in the service of others… and I’m going to continue that,” he said.
He said he is running a grassroots campaign to make healthcare accessible to all.
“Part of my plan to help seniors is to provide voucher programs for those people who can’t afford these items…We need to get everyone insured. That will bring the price of Medicare down, that’ll bring the price of insurance down, but we have to make it affordable,” he said.
Helmick added he is an ardent Trump supporter.
“I went to Mar-a-Lago, I met the man, I thought he was great…He didn’t endorse my campaign but I believe he supports it,” he said.
The Illinois primary election is on June 28.