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Dems hold on to Lake County Coroner’s Office

Looking electiresults democratic headquarters North Avenue Waukegan (from left) are first vice chair Lake County Democrats Pete Couvall Waukegan Troy

Looking at election results at the democratic headquarters on North Avenue in Waukegan (from left) are first vice chair of the Lake County Democrats, Pete Couvall of Waukegan, Troy Kernin of Waukegan, Lake County Coroner candidate Dr. Tom Rudd of Lake Forest, and James Spencer of Libertyville. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 6, 2013 10:12AM

The Lake County Coroner’s Office will remain in the Democratic Party after Thomas Rudd won a close race with Republican Steven Newton.

Rudd was about 4,000 votes short with all the precincts reporting, but he was able to surge ahead when the early voting totals and vote by mail were added at the end. Rudd had 50.5 percent or 132,504 to Newton’s 49 percent or 129,822.

“It was a stunner,” said Rudd, who had heard early from another candidate that he was ahead in the early voting. He thought those votes would be counted first, so he was surprised that Newton was leading most of the night with 52 percent, then 50 percent, then 51 percent.

“We pulled it out,” he said.

Rudd, a retired pathologist from Lake Forest, ran on remaking the office into a medical examiner’s office and getting the office and staff accredited.

Newton argued that it should remain a coroner’s office while keeping up with advances in technology and bringing back the inquest, where a jury of residents determined a final cause of death.

Rudd said it would still be up to the Lake County Board and there would have to be a referendum for the coroner’s office to be changed into a medical examiner’s office.

“First, we are going to get the office accredited. It’s going to be very hard to do because the office has never undergone an inspection,” he said.

He said he wants to make sure that autopsies are done on time and the staff also get accredited.

“It’s daunting. I never held office before,” he said, although he did run for the North Shore Sanitary District in the ‘90s. “This is going to be a 24-hour job,” he said.

Rudd knocked off Artis Yancey in the primary. Yancey took over for Dr. Richard Keller, the first ever Democrat to win the office in 2004, after he resigned after being charged with a felony in connection with an overdose death of a patient at his methadone clinic in Waukegan.

Keller had fired Newton in 2007 for having an inappropriate relationship with a co-worker. Newton said it was plain and simple “politics.” Newton had worked in the office under Coroner Jim Whipper, who lost to Keller.

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