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Conservative Coalition backs Democratic coroner candidate

BATAVIA – A conservative political organization headed by a man who worked for State Sen. Chris Lauzen during the Republican primary election for Kane County Board Chairman has endorsed the Democratic candidate in the race for Kane County Coroner.

Thursday, the Kane County Conservative Coalition, which is led by political activist Jon Zahm, released a list of 20 political endorsements for various political races on the November ballot.

The endorsements include a long list of Republican candidates, except for one major exception – the office of Kane County coroner, in which Zahm said he is backing Democrat Tao Martinez.

Martinez, of Aurora, is facing Republican Rob Russell, of South Elgin, in that race.

Zahm has served as chairman of the Kane County conservative group since he founded it in 2002. He now lives in Henry County, where he serves on the Henry County Board. The Kane County Conservative Coalition is registered to a Batavia post office box.

Zahm's wife also works as a paid consultant for the Martinez campaign. And Zahm, who worked as a consultant for Lauzen's campaign in the spring, also had supported Russell's Republican primary opponent, Elgin physician Bob Tiballi.

Russell had campaigned during the primary election with Lauzen's Republican primary opponent, Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns. And Martinez recently endorsed Lauzen over his Democratic opponent, former St. Charles Mayor Sue Klinkhamer.

In endorsing Martinez, Zahm mentions Martinez's qualifications for office, noting his work running Archangels Biorecovery Inc., a business, based in Aurora, which provides death scene services to families and businesses.

But in his release, Zahm also included allegations against Russell, accusing him of being "dishonest" and of being a candidate who "too easily cozies up to the political power brokers and insiders." Zahm particularly lashes out at Russell, a DuPage County Sheriff's deputy, for exaggerating his law enforcement background to burnish his credentials.

He said Russell has "created this fantasy" in which Russell is a "lead homicide investigator." Russell worked as a patrol officer and more recently, as a corrections sergeant for the DuPage County Sheriff's Office during the past two decades.

Russell in September achieved certification as a "lead homicide investigator." But he has said that he never claimed to be a homicide detective. He also asserted that, as a patrol officer, he has been involved in several death investigations.

"My record stands for itself," Russell said. "I have the certifications, and I earned them."

Russell said Zahm's endorsement of Martinez did not surprise him, nor did Zahm's accusations.

"This is obviously a political hit piece coming out right before the election," Russell said.

Russell also noted that Martinez, while working on death scenes, "has never investigated a single death."

Martinez said he was unaware of Zahm's endorsement. But he said he welcomed the support from Zahm. Martinez shied from calling Russell "dishonest," saying "those were not my words."

But Martinez said Russell has run his campaign with "a lack of integrity."

"How you run your campaign is a direct reflection of how you are going to run the (coroner's) office," Martinez said.

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