U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, on Wednesday accused his Democrat challenger, Cheri Bustos, of East Moline, of hiring activists from Chicago to disrupt one of his meetings.
Ms. Bustos said the accusation is false, and the Schilling campaign provided no specific support for the charge, made during a joint appearance of the candidates with the editorial board of the Rockford Register-Star.
The meeting in question was a Sept. 18 town hall forum in Freeport, where Rep. Schilling was greeted by protesting workers from Sensata Technologies, which is outsourcing 170 jobs from Freeport to China.
Tom Gaulrapp, a 33-year Sensata employee, asked Rep. Schilling if he would support a bill that would penalize firms that outsource U.S. jobs, a reference to the Bring American Jobs Home Act. Mr. Gaulrapp said he wanted a yes-or-no answer.
As Rep. Schilling began to talk about how he wrote a letter to Sensata's CEO asking him to reconsider cutting the Freeport jobs, several crowd members started chanting "yes or no."
Terry Schilling, Rep. Schilling's campaign manager, then escorted his father away from the podium. Rep. Schilling returned after the protesters left.
At the editorial board meeting Wednesday in Rockford, Rep. Schilling said, "To hire people from Chicago, Ill., have them come to Freeport and intimidate and bully staffers on our staff, it's just, it's un-American."
He offered no evidence to support the allegation.
Ms. Bustos told the editorial board she did not hire anyone to attend the meeting. She did not attend it and said she only became aware of the incident after a video was posted online. Ms. Bustos said she would have stayed to answer the workers' question.
Asked Wednesday if protesters were hired or brought in from Chicago directly by the Bustos campaign to the Freeport meeting, Terry Schilling said, "I don't know. I'll let her (Ms. Bustos) answer that."
Mr. Gaulrapp said two members of Stand Up Chicago, a liberal group, were at the meeting but had no connection to the Bustos campaign. Jon Schweppe, a Schilling spokesman, said it was "clear there was coordination."
Rep. Schilling has said he opposes the Bring American Jobs Home Act because he believes local employers, such as John Deere and Caterpillar, should not be penalized for having plants abroad. Ms. Bustos supports the proposed law.
Also during the editorial board session Wednesday, Rep. Schilling said, "With Gabby Giffords being shot at the beginning of the last Congress, Cheri, I think this is a bad time for you to bring people from Chicago, Illinois, into our district from Stand Up Chicago and try to intimidate and push our people around."
Ms. Giffords is the Arizona Congresswoman who was badly wounded after being shot at a public meeting in Tucson, Ariz., last year. Although Rep. Schilling said the atmosphere was "hostile," Mr. Gaulrapp said there was no threat of violence at the meeting.
"I'm offended that they would compare something like that to what went on at the meeting," Mr. Gaulrapp said. "We have never done anything that indicated to anybody that we are anything but peaceful."
Today is Monday, Dec. 9, the 343rd day of 2013. There are 22 days left in the year. 1863 — 150 years ago: All last week were favored with the most delightful Indian summer weather. The mercury ranged from 40 to 65 degrees and the ice is entirely gone out of the river. 1888 — 125 years ago: W.D. Reimers was given charge of the Weyerhaeuser-Denkmann mill in Davenport. 1913 — 100 years ago: Eight hundred or more tons of earth in six landslides, covered 38th Street for a distance of 200 feet near 7th Avenue and destroyed much property. 1938 — 75 years ago: Patrolman Joseph H. Schnelder, of Moline, has been awarded four medals for proficiency in marksmanship. He is the crack pistol shot of the Rock Island district. 1963 — 50 years ago: For the 83rd year, George Frederic Handel's "Messiah" was performed at Augustana College ushering in the spiritual aspect of the Christmas season. 1988 — 25 years ago: A water main break Thursday night, the fourth this week, affected 35 homes near the 2200 block of 39th Street, Rock Island, city officials said today.