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Retired ISP master sergeant Marc Bell enters race for 99th House

State Journal Register

Tuesday, September 12, 2017  |  Column  |  Bernard Schoenburg

Candidates--Statewide (12)

Marc Bell of Chatham, a retired Illinois State Police master sergeant, said Monday he’s running for the Democratic nomination for the Illinois House in the 99th District.

“It’s something that I’ve been interested in for a long time, and after being a public servant for 30-plus years, I think this was the best way for me to continue to help the citizens of Illinois and help my community,” Bell said.

There is an open seat in the 99th, as Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, R-Leland Grove, has said she’s not seeking a new term in 2018.

Jimenez voted this summer against GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner’s wishes in approving a budget, including an income-tax increase that ended a two-year budget impasse. Bell said he “definitely” would have voted for that budget.

The impasse, he said, “really damaged a lot of the social service programs. ... A lot of people ... were hurting.”

He said his focus would be “bringing opportunity to the people as far as education, as far as job training,” as well as companies with good jobs – particularly technology firms.

“I really just want to give the voice back to the 99th,” he said. “I felt like the governor stole that away.”

Asked to elaborate, Bell said that while he agrees with Jimenez on the budget votes, he thinks in general that Rauner’s naming of former Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, to agriculture director, and the subsequent appointment of Jimenez to the 99th by Sangamon County Republicans, meant a lack of representation for many state workers and retirees in unions in the 99th.

Bell was represented by Teamsters as a master sergeant, he said, and was first in a union when a teenager working at a grocery store in Chicago.

“I am pro-union,” he said. “Of course, I’m pro-law enforcement.”

On abortion, Bell said, “I think women should have the right to choose.”

On guns, he said he supports the Second Amendment, but “I am not a big proponent of concealed carry because of my law enforcement background.”

In a verbal altercation, he said, “if everybody’s carrying a firearm, there’s a chance that situation is going to escalate.”

Current law says a concealed carry license must be renewed after five years, with three hours of training and completion of an investigation. Bell said he’d want to review the training requirement to make sure it is adequate.

Rauner and other Republicans have laid blame for many state problems on House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who has spent more than 30 years in the job and also chairs the Democratic Party of Illinois.

“There’s a lot of blame to go around,” Bell said. “I think Mike Madigan is a very shrewd politician, very smart. Nobody can be in the political game that long without being that.”

Asked if he would vote for Madigan for speaker, Bell said, “I guess that would be determined on who would be his competition.”

Bell is a Chicago native who got his bachelor’s degree from Chicago State University. He joined the state police at age 21 in 1985, and retired at the end of 2013. He now works part-time as a school resource officer in the Ball-Chatham district. He also is a mentor at Dubois Elementary School in Springfield.

He moved to the Springfield area in 1997, and part of his initial work in central Illinois was as an undercover narcotics officer in Springfield and Jacksonville.

“It was kind of exciting,” he said.

He was an appointed member of the Chatham Police and Fire Commission from 2009-2011, is a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, and is on the executive board of the Land of Lincoln Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. Among his jobs as a master sergeant was Medicaid fraud control bureau investigative squad leader.

Bell and his wife, Aissa, have been married for 32 years and have three adult daughters and one grandson.

Jimenez’s 2016 opponent, Democrat Tony DelGiorno, said Monday that despite being encouraged to run again, he is not planning to be a candidate. He said he and his wife talked over the potential of another race this year, and decided “I can best serve Springfield by working as hard as I can to elect a Democratic governor next year.”

Various Republicans are seeking the Sangamon County GOP’s support in the 99th. They include restaurant owner Mike Coffey Jr., former restaurant owner Mike Murphy, attorney Dave Kelm and farmer and banker Tyler Sloan.

— Contact Bernard Schoenburg: bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com, 788-1540, twitter.com/bschoenburg.