After a contentious race for the open Kane County coroner's seat, Republican Rob Russell was elected to the post Tuesday, according to unofficial election results.
Russell ran against Democrat Tao Martinez for the seat formerly held by Chuck West, who died from complications following liver transplant surgery. Russell said he has a plan for when he steps into office, and he's looking forward to getting started.
"I'm happy with the results and humbled that Kane County chose me as coroner," he said.
With all precincts reporting, preliminary results tallied Tuesday night showed that Russell had 92,499 votes, and Martinez had 71,771 votes.
"It feels great because I have lost a race before, and it makes victory that much sweeter," Russell said. "I know what my opponent is going through, and it's important not to relish in the loss."
Russell, 45, has spent 20 years in law enforcement and is a sergeant with the DuPage County Sheriff's Office.
He said Tuesday that he plans to quit his job to become the full-time coroner. He said the first order of business is reaching out to funeral homes, police and fire services, and advocacy groups to start repairing relationships that have been strained over the last eight years or so.
Russell said he also wants to start the process of making the coroner's office accredited, and he wants to explore resource-sharing options.
Martinez, 31, is the president and founder of ArchAngels BioRecovery Inc., which is a business that provides cleanup services after death. He said he had no regrets while campaigning.
"Regardless of what happened, I tried to do my best to run the cleanest campaign I could," he said.
Martinez said he's not a typical candidate for the party line, which he proved by endorsing Republican Chris Lauzen, who ran for County Board chairman. He said he hopes that sets an example of bipartisanship.
While campaigning, the two candidates sparred over credentials, and whether the coroner was a law-enforcement position. Claims also surfaced that a Russell supporter bullied a Martinez supporter by removing a Martinez campaign yard sign and replacing it with a Russell campaign sign.
"This was a particularly unsavory race," said Russell, pointing out his credentials were called into question. "People with integrity expect to be believed, and when they're not, time will prove them right. Tonight, I was proved right."
• Shaw Media reporter Frank Vaisvilas contributed to this report.