By CARL GREEN
Belleville – Joel D. Funk, a former Army Special Operations aviation officer who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, has a new and very different mission – to win the Illinois 12th Congressional District as a Democrat and replace anti-union incumbent Mike Bost.
Funk grew up on a family farm near Mascoutah. He’s a Southern Baptist and his military record stretches back 13 years. He was Group Aviation Officer for the 5th Special Forces out of Fort Campbell, Ky., and before that was a command and general staff officer at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., specializing in aviation, and before that an operation officer for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell.
Funk had seven combat deployments in the Middle-East and flew President Obama in 2012 in Afghanistan, and he also planned and piloted in a Super Bowl flyover.
In an online comment, he pledged to work hard for the southern Illinois district, which takes in Belleville, East St. Louis, Granite City, Alton and rural counties mostly to the east and south.
“The most important things in life are never easy,” he states. “Meaningful change doesn’t come without a struggle, for if it did, someone would’ve done it already. The road ahead will be difficult, but the good people of southern Illinois deserve a better tomorrow, and with your support and help we can make that happen.”
NOT YOUR TYPICAL DEMOCRAT
Members of the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council last week were intrigued at the possibility of a Democratic candidate with strong military and church affiliations and a farming background.
“He doesn’t sound like your typical Democratic candidate, but we questioned him at length and you know, that set of characteristics may be the magic that can beat Mike Bost,” said Council delegate Marcia Campbell, a longtime leader in the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
“That combination – that military, farm family, southern Baptist combination – just may be able to win votes in southern Illinois.”
Campbell said she was impressed with the young candidate and put him in touch with potential advisers within the party.
Council President Scot Luchtefeld said he was with Funk at the Columbia Days Parade on Aug. 17.
“When he talks to people, they find out he really is a quality person,” Luchtefeld said. “He was there shaking hands, saying he was going to run. It’s what you’ve got to do. I would like to think that this guy can get the right kind of support.”
CALLING OUT BOST ON TARIFFS
Funk is now working as a Northwestern Mutual representative in Fairview Heights and has filed paperwork with the Federation Election Commission so he can raise money as a Democrat in the 12th District.
The Belleville News-Democrat reported that Funk sent a tweet about President Trump’s trade war with China that has wrecked sales for American soybean growers, and how Bost has been a steadfast Trump supporter.
“I’d love to see (Bost) explain why the trade war is good for southern Illinois now,” Funk said in the message. “The national debt is setting new highs, the Fed is lowering rates to spur growth. The tariffs that (Bost) supports are hurting trade and our cost-of-living.
“We are paying for it now, but he will pay for it in November 2020.”
Funk received a political science degree in international relations and military affairs in 2006 from The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, S.C. He received a master of arts in security studies from Kansas State University in 2017.
Funk’s page at the LinkedIn website, describes him as a “results-driven financial representative, operations officer, strategic planner, military aviation expert, program manager and director with 13 years of experience in operations, planning and leading teams to success through various channels of training, development and mentorship.”
He graduated from Mascoutah High School in 2002.
The 12th District, once dominated by Metro-East Democrats and their Labor allies, in recent elections has been controlled by Republicans, mostly from its many rural counties.
Last year, former St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly ran a strong campaign with Labor support but could not overcome Bost, a former fire fighter and state representative who has held the Congressional seat since 2015.