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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Election: Sangamon County Coroner

On November 4, 2008, among the many offices to be voted on in Sangamon County is the office of the coroner. I was not intending to discuss the Sangamon County Coroner's race, but having received the following request, I can't resist:

Can you do a post on the David vs. Goliath matchup between Aby Phoenix and Susan Boone for Sangamon County Coroner? Phoenix has the medical background which would allow her to do a better job, but Boone is a Republican insider. Thanks!

In case anyone never noticed, I'm not really qualified as a political analyst or reviewer. So, I'll just state my thoughts based on what I've read and my own feelings. This may not be want the commenter is looking for.

First, a few comments about the medical background notation. A lot of people (obviously not the commenter) are surprised to learn that the coroner is a not a doctor or medical person. I think this comes from watching the fictional Quincy, reading Kay Scarpetta novels, and the like. Both of those medical examiner characters are forensic scientists with doctor of medicine degrees. In addition, and equally important, they are advocates for dead people.

Our coroner is not like that. According to Illinois law, the coroner doesn't even need to have any medical experience or knowledge. So, what does the coroner do? Among the basic administrativia, the coroner is a law enforcement official, second only to the sheriff, who conducts inquests, when necessary. It's my understanding that forensic matters, such as autopsies, are contracted out to the hospitals, and non-medical forensic things are conducted by law enforcement like the state crime lab.

If we're lucky, most of us never have any dealings with the coroner's office. As a matter of fact, I'd bet most of us never give the coroner's office a passing thought. Except for the the occasional reference in the newspaper, it does seem there has been at least one thought provoking irate letter to the editor about the current coroner.

So, to the race at hand. Susan Boone is the Republican incumbant. We know that she ran unopposed in 2000, and in 2004 beat Jerry Compton with 58% of the vote. The records aren't on line, and I don't remember if she held the office before 2000. Prior to being elected, she worked in the office of the former longtime coroner, Norman Richter. (I couldn't find a profile of Susan in the paper's web site.)

Angela "Aby" Phoenix is the Democratic opponent. She is an R.N. who works in the emergency room at St. John's Hospital. This is her first foray into politics. (See SJ-R profile.)

Susan Boone has not been without controversy. One incident I recall involved an alleged very bad man (he hadn't been tried yet) who was tasered in the county jail while misbehaving. The man died very shortly afterward, and Susan declared the death to be by natural causes. The town got all up in arms because they were certain the death was caused by the taser and she was protecting jail staff. (I'm sure someone will come along and correct me on my facts, but that's basically what happened.) There have been other controversies, the facts of which escape me at the moment.

As voters, we should consider voting for Aby Phoenix for reasons, in addition to, or other than the controversies.

One, she would be replacing the two-term incumbent who is of the party which has had a stranglehold on politics in this county since what seems forever. The balance of power, which has been tipped to the Republican side for so long, needs to be more balanced out. They run everything. In this county, the Republican party is the Goliath and any challengers are little David.

Two, because she is a nurse and has medical education. In addition to the compassion that a nurse intuitively has, her medical knowledge and background can and should bring a new level of professionalism to the office for now and the future. Sangamon County, and Springfield as the seat of government, should be able to boast a medical professional as the coroner, even if it isn't required by law.

Finally, three, it is time for change. Between Susan and her former boss, we're going back decades of the same mindset that has run that office. That can't be healthy for the state of the Sangamon County.

Edit to add: Noticed some hours later that the same request was put on Dave's blog.

Posted by Marie at October 1, 2008 4:15 PM


While it's not my race by any means (you can find my disappointing ballot here, I have to ask you about this, and please provide an honest answer. I'm unsure of the governmental set-up in your county, but is law enforcement there a political job? I assume you vote for your county sheriff, too... does Dem vs. Repub make a difference?

And for that matter, does the county coroner have enough political clout in your local government that putting a particular political persuasion there could actually tip the balance of power?

In the 5+ years I've been reading your blog, I've come to know you're solidly Democrat, but not blindly so... you don't seem to be a party-line person. So I'm kinda wondering what the rationale is.

On point #2 I absolutely agree with you, but what's Boone's background? You say she worked for her predecessor, but what's her education background?

Oh, and while you may not feel qualified to act as a political analyst, I always enjoy reading your insights. :)

[off to finish researching my voting, and drop it in the mail tonight...]

Posted by: ben Author Profile Page at October 1, 2008 9:14 PM

Thanks for the info on the coroner race! I also posted the same request on "The Eleventh Hour" blog to see if Dave had a perspective on this issue. But, I swear, you are the only two blogs where I posted the request. I don't work for Aby Phoenix or anything. I'm actually a registered Republican, but you articulated well why I'm voting for Ms. Phoenix in the upcoming election. Thank you!

Posted by: Devoted Reader at October 1, 2008 9:33 PM

Ben, good questions. On the county level, unlike the city, the elected officials are partisan. So, yes, we elect the Sheriff and he, too, is a Republican.

As far as the coroner's clout goes, I don't know for sure, but I'd guess it's probably a little more than negligible. So, her office alone wouldn't tip the balance at all, but you've got to start somewhere. I believe if the powers were tipped the other way for as long, I'd be advocating for some Republicans in the county races. I think. I hope.

I'm not exactly sure what Susan's background is. I tried to find some information to no avail. I believe she was the former coroner's secretary. But, hey, I'm not knocking secretaries because I'm one, myself.

Ben, one of the reasons I never miss your blog is because you have said some things that are totally the opposite of the way I believe things should be politically. Except for that RIAA thing. I think we're both aligned on that.

Thanks for your comments and good luck with your ballot.

Posted by: Marie at October 1, 2008 9:46 PM

Devoted Reader (or Dev Red as I like to say), Thank you!

Posted by: Marie at October 1, 2008 9:48 PM

On a completely different topic, you might want to participate in Blog Action Day 2008 (http://blogactionday.org/). More than 5,000 blogs are already scheduled to participate, with the aim of igniting a global conversation about poverty.

Posted by: Dev Red at October 3, 2008 1:24 PM

Your example is a good one. It's very important to local Republican leaders that they stay in control of the State's Attorney, Sheriff and Coroner's office. If there's ever a controversy they want everyone to be on the same team.

Posted by: Will at October 3, 2008 2:24 PM