The GOP race for Kane County coroner might be determined by whether taxpayers want a doctor or a police officer investigating how and why local deaths occur.
And at least one candidate wants voters to focus on the contrasting opinions the two GOP candidates have about how soon taxpayers should be able to move on from the legacy of indicted Coroner Chuck West.
Republican candidates Rob Russell of South Elgin and Bob Tiballi of Elgin squared off at a candidates forum for the first time this week. Tiballi is a pediatrician and an infectious disease specialist who ran unsuccessfully for coroner eight years ago.
He jumped on West's legal problems as a chance to distance himself from Russell, challenging Russell to join him in calling for West's immediate resignation three times at the forum.
"He says he's motivated to run by injustice in the office, and yet he's had (multiple) opportunities to call on the coroner to resign, and he can't do it," Tiballi said. "He's been asked to do it. He won't do it."
Russell responded to Tiballi during his closing statement after ignoring the challenge for the balance of the debate.
"I do believe in justice," Russell said. "Calling for Chuck West to retire, leave the office ... if it would do some good I would absolutely call upon that. But I believe in the justice system. That really is where (West) is going to find his demise."
Russell, a sergeant for the DuPage County sheriff's office, tried to steer the debate into a focus on qualifications for the office as defined by law. Russell said the law indicates the coroner is an investigator, not a doctor.
"It's pretty clear just by the amount of coroners that are not doctors that it's an investigative position," Russell said. "Even if a person is a doctor, and they are the coroner, they can't perform the autopsies. It has to be done, by statute, by an outside forensic pathologist."
Tiballi deflected that position by saying the key aspect of death investigations is the death.
"The chief responsibility of the coroner is to determine the cause of death," Tiballi said. "I don't see how you can do that without being a doctor."
The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Tao Martinez of North Aurora in November's general election. Martinez is the founder and president of ArchAngels BioRecovery Inc.
Disagree: Tiballi challenges Russell to urge West to resign