Republicans Rob Russell and Dr. Bob Tiballi battled over the same question at every Kane County coroner debate for the past few months. Should the coroner be a doctor or a peace officer? Local Republican voters said Tuesday night they want a peace officer.
Unofficial totals showed Russell received 17,494 votes compared to 16,011 for Tiballi with all precincts reporting.
The victory marks redemption for Russell. He narrowly lost a bid for the Republican nomination for Kane County Sheriff just two years ago. This time he'll move toward November with the party's backing and his qualifications as the only peace officer in the race as a major point to campaign with.
"When you look at the statute, it doesn't say anything about having medical training," Russell said. "When you look at what a coroner actually does, it's really a peace officer position. I think that question of peace officer versus medical doctor was answered."
Now Kane County voters will have a new question to answer about their next coroner. Do they want a peace officer? Or do they want a candidate with extensive experience at death scenes?
Tiballi will face Democrat Tao Martinez in November. Martinez is the president and founder of ArchAngels Biorecovery, Inc. The company handles infection control of homicide, suicide and unattended death scenes. Martinez has already been rallying his forces for the November contest and has appeared at a number of election events and debates though he hasn't had much of a chance to make his voice heard without an opponent to date.
Russell said he believes the vote total he garnered on election night shows he'll be a strong candidate in the general election. Russell actively campaigned with fellow Republicans on the ballot, included Congressman Randy Hultgren in at least one door-to-door effort. But Russell said he's counting on an even stronger grass-roots effort if he'll win in November. He promised not to take anything for granted.
"I'm an old football guy,' Russell said. "I don't look toward the Super Bowl before all the playoff games are done. Basically, this is a two-phased effort. Phase one is done. Now we have another big effort to put forward in the next nine months. This win tonight all came down to working hard."
Tiballi could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.