Former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling dies at 57

Schilling represented the Land of Lincoln side of the Quad Cities before running for the Iowa side in 2019

Former congressman Bobby Schilling speaks at the Muscatine GOP monthly meeting in Muscatine, Iowa on Aug. 13, 2019. He died Tuesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Former congressman Bobby Schilling speaks at the Muscatine GOP monthly meeting in Muscatine, Iowa on Aug. 13, 2019. He died Tuesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Posted April 7, 2021 at 11:41am

Former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling, who represented the Land of Lincoln side of the Quad Cities before trying for a comeback in 2020 on the Iowa side, died Tuesday at age 57 after a bout with cancer.

Schilling’s son, Terry, made the announcement Tuesday, saying his father made the world a better place. 

“Today my dad lost his battle with cancer. He was larger than life and lived his life for God and others,” he tweeted. 

The Republican won a single term in Illinois’ 17th Congressional District in 2010. He then lost to Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos in 2012 and 2014 in a redrawn version of his seat. 

Schilling said in 2019 that he bought property in Iowa in 2015 and began building a home in 2016. He said the move was prompted by rising property taxes in Illinois. 

The move also qualified him for a run in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District in 2020. The father of 10 was beaten in the primary by Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who went on to win the contest over Democrat Rita Hart by a razor-thin 6-vote margin. 

“When we ran against each other last year in the Republican primary in Iowa’s Second Congressional District, Bobby proved himself to be a hard-working, focused and worthy opponent. His love for his wife and children shined through in all his conversations,” Miller-Meeks tweeted after the announcement.

Schilling was the owner of Moline’s Saint Giuseppe’s Heavenly Pizza. He said in a 2019 interview the name came from his wife of three decades, Christie, whose grandmother was Italian and whose grandfather always called their son, Joe, the Italian name Giuseppe.

The Illinois-born Democrat, who evolved into a Reagan Republican, left pizza for politics, vowing to oppose tax increases and slash discretionary federal spending as part of a quest to improve job prospects in the western part of Illinois. 

He was elected in 2010 with backing from the tea party movement but joined both the conservative Republican Study Committee and the Tuesday Group, made up of House GOP moderates.

Undaunted by those who accused him of being a carpetbagger during his more recent Iowa run, Schilling argued that his father was raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and his grandfather had a jewelry store in the state.

“I was born and raised in the Quad Cities,” he told CQ Roll Call in August 2019. “I spent 55 years in the Quad Cities, which is Iowa, Illinois, you know, so it’s the same.”

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.