Endorsement: Byrnes in GOP primary for McHenry County coroner

Primary candidates for McHenry County coroner are in the bizarre position of campaigning for an office that none of them may ever hold - regardless of the vote totals.

The winner of the Republican primary will indeed advance to the November election, and so far there is no Democratic challenger. But on that ballot will be a binding referendum asking if McHenry County voters want to abolish the elected coroner position in favor of an appointed medical examiner. If voters approve the measure, the change will take effect Nov. 30, thus preventing the winner from taking office.

Still, three committed Republican candidates are fighting for the post: Angela Byrnes of Crystal Lake, Dr. Michael Rein of Woodstock and Mark Justen of McHenry. They all make strong cases for their credentials and for retaining an elected coroner.

Should the post remain, the new coroner will face challenges. The previous coroner stepped down last year for health reasons. Reports prepared by the sheriff's office and a separate independent study in the months that followed identified a number of issues with the coroner's office, including problems with security and evidence storage.

In promoting his candidacy, Rein touts his past service on the McHenry County Board as well as his years as a chiropractor, while Justen highlights his experience as a funeral director. Byrnes, meanwhile, is a nurse with training in forensic nursing who now serves as vice president of a nonprofit hospice agency, a role that we believe has helped prepare her to lead.

Byrnes offers a fresh start, something the office needs. She's well-versed in the issues and eager to pursue accreditation for the office from the International Association of Coroners & Medical Examiners as a way to set up best practices and add a layer of accountability. Plus, Byrnes is professional and well-spoken, important traits for an official who must communicate with law enforcement officials and families who've lost a loved one under sometimes horrific circumstances.

"An elected coroner speaks for the dead," Justen said in summing up the role. We believe Angela Byrnes is the best candidate to do that. She earns our endorsement.

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