Unionist, Navy vet enters southern Illinois Congressional campaign in hopes of ousting Republican Mike Bost

Illinois Correspondent

CHIP MARKEL, a U.S. Navy veteran who has held leadership roles in AFSCME, IBEW and Laborers locals and the Illinois corrections system will be on Illinois’ June 28 primary election ballot in the 12th Congressional District, providing a potentially strong challenge to Republican incumbent Mike Bost. – Markel campaign photo

A union leader and Navy veteran has stepped into the Democratic primary contest in Illinois’ 12th Congressional District, providing some potentially strong competition for veteran Republican Congressman Mike Bost.

Homer “Chip” Markel, 61, of Carbondale, will be on the June 28 primary ballot across most of southern Illinois and parts of the Metro-East, and he brings a record of leadership that includes serving with the Navy in Japan and leadership roles in AFSCME, IBEW and Laborers locals and the Illinois corrections system.

Markel says he wants to get back to common-sense leadership aimed at making life better for everyone, not just those in one political party or the other.

“The working class is the foundation of this country,” he said an interview. “If we don’t have a strong working class, then we have a weak foundation. We’ve got to bring good-paying jobs back.

“I’m going to be a representative for all of southern Illinois – that’s Democrat, that’s Republican, that’s whether you vote for me or whether you don’t vote for me,” he added. “If I’m the representative, I’m going to represent everybody, I’m going to do the job for everybody. I want to do what’s right for the district, I want to do what’s right for the country.”

Partisan politics has been holding the region and the nation back, Markel maintains. For example, Bost joined all House Republicans in voting against the much-needed infrastructure bill that will begin the long-overdue process of making deteriorated southern Illinois roads safe again. Only 13 GOP senators voted for it.

“This infrastructure bill should have been the easiest vote for any of them to make,” he said. “Roads need work in southern Illinois. For Mike Bost to vote against this bill, I just don’t understand that. That’s a vote against southern Illinois, because of all the jobs it’s going to create and keep. It’s going to make life better for everybody.

“We have to have somebody start bringing our people, and our Congress especially,  back together. If this can be the first step, and southern Illinois can show the country we’re not as divided as they say we are, then maybe this is the first step down the right path.”

In a letter to Scot Luchtefeld, president of the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council, Markel noted some accomplishments from his work in AFSCME and later the Laborers in a 26-year career with the Illinois Department of Corrections.

He joined the Navy after graduating from Trico High School in 1978, and he served on the U.S.S. Midway carrier in Yokosuka, Japan, and then on the U.S.S. Norton Sound in Port Hueneme, Calif. before accepting an honorable discharge in 1982.

Markel went to work as a boiler technician at Sikeston Power Plant in Sikeston, MO, and was a member there of IBEW Local 702. In 1985, he was hired as a correctional officer at Menard Correctional Center. From 1988 to 1994, he was president of AFSCME Local 1175, negotiating contracts and helping establish the Tamms Closed Maximum Security Facility.

“Working closely with state Rep. Terry Deering, AFSCME Council 31 and the Illinois Department of Corrections, we successfully lobbied Gov. Jim Edgar and the Illinois Legislature in recognizing the need for such a facility to address the safety and security concerns within the Department of Corrections,” Markel said.

In 1995, he transferred to the Tamms prison, reaching the ranks of lieutenant, captain, major and chief of security, and serving as a union steward and contract negotiator for Laborers Local 2002, helping to establish the wage scale, workplace rights and benefits. He retired in 2012.

Markel remains a strong supporter of unions and the ways they make our nation and world stronger.

“Union is the way to go,” he said in the interview. “Unions provide living salaries, vacations, pensions and health care insurance. Everything the working people have received has either been from the Democrats or from the unions.”

He specified that while Democrats have provided Social Security, Medicare, the right to vote and the right to organize, unions have provided jobs with living wages, health insurance, and pensions.

Markel’s time in the Navy was short, but it left an impression on the young man.

“We were testing the Tomahawk cruise missiles at the time,” he said. “I was ready to come back home after four years, but it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade. It gave me a better understanding of serving my country – and I’m feeling that call again!”

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