PEORIA — U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos will take a pass on the Illinois governor's race next year.
The third-term Democrat from Moline announced her decision Monday after several weeks of consideration on entering the contest to challenge GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Among the things that factored into her decision was being appointed to a junior leadership position for House Democrats last month. She's the only member from the Midwest on the Democrats' leadership team.
"I really want to dig deep and focus on that and make sure I'm doing the best I can on that," she said of her role as one of three co-chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.
"As the only Midwesterner sitting around that table, it's a responsibility I take very seriously to make sure I'm speaking out for the families around the heartland who feel like they've been left behind," she said.
Still, Bustos said she believes Rauner has been an "absolute disaster" for state government, and he is "entirely beatable" in the 2018 election.
Bustos declined at this point to endorse any of the other Democrats who have entered the race so far, but said as the months went on she expected she would make her preference known.
Among the priorities there, she said, is ensuring that the nominee will focus on the entirety of the state.
"I'm a downstater who believes that if you're going to run statewide, you have to understand that you've got to fight not only for Chicagoans, but for downstaters as well," she said.
Bustos had been talked about for several months as a potential candidate for governor, and earlier in February promised a decision within 30 days on whether or not she'd enter the contest.
She placed fourth in a straw poll conducted by the Illinois Democratic County Chairmen's Association. That poll was won by state Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, who is another potential candidate but has not declared his intentions.
Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar and businessman Chris Kennedy have both entered the Democratic race, as has Madison County Regional School Superintendent Bob Daiber.
Investor and philanthropist JB Pritzker has also weighed entering the contest.
Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard