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In 1996, he and his wife opened Saint Giuseppe's Heavenly Pizza in Moline, Illinois; the restaurant is still owned by the family and Schilling ran the restaurant until taking office, when he left his son in charge. According to public personal financial disclosures, Schilling's restaurant has dropped in value from a range of $100,000 to $250,000 down to between $50,000-$100,000. Schilling's son and campaign manager Terry Schilling said, "The real estate market has really taken a hit in East Moline. It just goes to show that Bobby Schilling has a real stake in this economy."
U.S. House of Representatives
Schilling grew up as a Democrat, but has become more conservative over the years and now characterizes himself as a "Reagan Republican." He was also influenced by radio and television personality Glenn Beck. Schilling was one of the 9-12 Candidates, a group led by Beck, and signed the 9-12 contract of principles and values. Schilling has said he was inspired to run for office because he was preparing to franchise his restaurant, but cancelled his plans when he saw then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama telling Joe the Plumber that the government needed to "spread the wealth around." Schilling announced his candidacy in April 2009 and officially filed for the Republican nomination in October 2009.
Schilling vowed not to participate in the congressional pension program, to keep his private health insurance instead of the congressional plan, to donate any pay raises he receives, to limit himself to no more than eight years in Congress, and not to vote for any bill he hasn't read. "I'm not going to make a career out of this," he says.
Early in the campaign, political websites rated the 17th District race "safe Democratic." However, by Election Day the race was rated "leans Republican" by RealClearPolitics, Cook Political Report, CQ Politics, and The New York Times. The race was profiled on CNN as one of the country's top 100 House races, in which they said, "Schilling trails in the overall money race, but he's raised enough to get his message out and give the incumbent something to worry about."
Hare criticized Schilling for living 0.99 miles outside the 17th District, though the Constitution only requires congressmen to live in the state they wish to represent. Schilling's wife notes that the family's restaurant is in the 17th and employs people and pays taxes there. She also says the family fell out of the district because of gerrymandering.
Unopposed in the primary election, in the general election, Schilling won by an unexpectedly large margin, taking 53 percent of the vote to Hare's 43 percent. Notably, he carried Hare's home county, Rock Island County, a normally heavily Democratic county that is home to the district's two largest cities, Moline and Rock Island, by nine points. After the election, Schilling hired as his chief of staff Mike Roman, a political consultant known for posting a video showing alleged voter intimidation during the 2008 presidential election. Roman, along with policy director Scott Tranter, resigned from Schilling's office in April 2011.
Schilling's campaign set an off-year fundraising record for a challenger in the 17th district, amassing about $89,000 in 2009. Schilling's campaign fundraising relied largely on individual donors, who accounted for about 80 percent of the $1 million raised by his campaign. Hare depended more heavily on political action committees, who contributed about two-thirds of his campaigns $1.3 million total. Following his election, Schilling has relied more on political action committees to help retire his campaign debt, with the bulk of his December 2010 fundraising coming from PACs, including Wal-Mart, the American Medical Association, Caterpillar Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co.
Schilling ended the campaign with a total of $1,095,167 raised and $1,078,911 spent.
Newspapers were evenly divided in endorsing Schilling over Hare, with the Chicago Tribune and the Sauk Valley News among those supporting Schilling. In October 2010 Schilling was endorsed by the Chicago Tribune.
Schilling ran for re-election in 2012 and faced Democrat and former East Moline City Council Alderwoman Cheri Bustos in the general election. He has been added to the National Republican Congressional Committee's Patriot Program, which is designed to defend incumbent Republicans. Bustos received a significant assist from the 2010 round of redistricting. The 17th already had a modest Democratic lean, but the Democratic-controlled legislature redrew the district to make it even more Democratic. Notably, Quincy, Decatur and the district's share of Springfield were cut out, replaced by the more Democratic portions of Peoria and Rockford. National Journal's Cook Political Report named Schilling one of the top 10 Republicans most vulnerable to redistricting in 2012.
Schilling has raised $1.4 million and had $950,000 cash on hand as of June 30, 2011.
While initially rated as a "lean-Democrat" race by major sites, in September 2012, Roll Call, the Cook Political Report, and the Rothenburg Political Report upgraded the race to "toss-up", with Cook saying Schilling had an advantage.
In the November 2012 elections, Bustos defeated Schilling by a 53%-47% margin. According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Schilling was "looking forward to focusing again on his pizza business after losing a second term."
It was widely expected by political analysts that Schilling would challenge Bustos to reclaim the seat in 2014. On July 8, 2013, he officially announced his candidacy for his old seat in the 2014 election. In his announcement, he said Bustos has been failing the middle class, and criticized her for not supporting any budget plans in the legislature.
According to The Hill, Schilling "historically has not been a strong fundraiser but is known as a skilled grassroots campaigner." During 2013, Bustos raised approximately $1.1 million and Schilling raised approximately $297,000.
Schilling was defeated in the November 4 general election by Bustos, 55%-45%.
Schilling's wife and 10 children attended the congressional swearing-in on January 5, 2011, attracting some notice and an interview with Diane Sawyer. His early actions as a congressman included joining 25 other freshman Republicans in voting against extending the USA PATRIOT Act; Schilling stated he believed that the bill may not provide sufficient safeguards on who is allowed to access personal information, and that the 45 minutes allotted for floor debate was inadequate to discuss these concerns. Following Obama's late January 2011 State of the Union address in which the President said he was "eager" to work with critics of his health care reform law, Schilling sent a letter to Obama requesting a one-on-one meeting.
In February 2011, Schilling joined 130 House Republicans in voting against a $450 million budget cut for an extra F-35 fighter-jet engine--a project that the U.S. Department of Defense had repeatedly tried to kill, and that Defense Secretary Robert Gates called "a waste of nearly 3 billion." Schilling voted for a package of cuts that included a $230 million federal grant to build an Amtrak line from Chicago to Iowa City, though he had supported the project during his campaign, calling it "critically important to both the economy and the environment of the Midwest." The planned rail line was a celebrated project by many in his district, including local mayors. Schilling defended his vote, arguing it was a question of prioritizing, separating wants from needs, and when he looked at the big picture, the rail service did not make the cut. He also stated that his constituents elected him to address national debt and deficit problems in Washington, not to take a business-as-usual approach.
In June 2011, Schilling introduced a bill to prevent members of Congress from receiving their congressional pension before they reach the Social Security retirement age.
In October 2011, a California resident issued a death threat promising a reward to anyone who assassinated Schilling. The threat is being investigated by the FBI and the United States Capitol Police. Schilling said he was advised by authorities to "lay low" while they investigated the threat and a spokeswoman for Schilling said the Schilling family was taking the "recommended precautions". According to The Hill, the person behind the threat may be the one behind similar threats against George W. Bush, several high-ranking current and former security and defense officials, and Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado. Schilling said, "It's a general threat to all members of Congress, but they specifically called my name out in the threat. You just don't know what people are thinking...It's something we're not going to take lightly."
He has said that the federal government should stop regulating education and that local schools should be under local control.
He views health care reform as a top priority. but supports repealing the Democrats' version of health care reform, believing it is unconstitutional. He supports tort reform and legalizing the purchase of insurance across state lines.
He is fiscally conservative, and believes in small government.
Schilling is married to Christie Schilling. They have ten children, the youngest of whom was born in February 2010, and twelve grandchildren. Schilling currently works in the private sector as a Business Consultant in Iowa. His son is now managing Saint Giuseppe's Heavenly Pizza, but Schilling is still involved in the business with plans of future expansion into the Iowa region.