Ex-sheriff's deputy defeats coroner's protege

All three candidates in the Ada County GOP primary got at least 30 percent of the votes.

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comMay 22, 2014 

A 28-year-old cook with no experience in death investigation garnered nearly as many votes in the Ada County coroner's race as the forensic supervisor at the coroner's office.

But the winner of the primary was Mike Chilton, a 46-year-old ex-Ada County sheriff's deputy who owns a business and teaches law enforcement for the Meridian School District. Chilton received 37 percent of all GOP votes cast.

Matthew Townsend, a former restaurant manager who received national attention for the dripping red paint on his campaign signs, received 30.5 percent of the vote in the Republican primary.

Robert Karinen, a 35-year-old forensic anthropologist who has worked at the coroner's office since 2001 and been supervisor since 2008, received 32.4 percent of the vote.

The coroner oversees a budget of about $1.7 million and a staff of 17, including seven death investigators. The salary for the job is currently $89,269.

"This is an office which carries tremendous responsibility, and I pledge myself to work as hard as I can to strengthen the services Ada County provides to the wonderful people of this county," Chilton said in a press release Wednesday.

Townsend didn't respond to requests for comment.

Outgoing Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg, who groomed Karinen to be his successor, expressed disappointment Wednesday.

"The best qualified person doesn't always get elected," he said in a phone call from Anchorage, where he was attending a meeting of the National Association of Counties.

"That doesn't mean disaster," Sonnenberg said. "That means that the office takes a different role. It will be run a different way."

Karinen spent the morning mulling the defeat in his first-ever foray into politics. A low-profile race, voter apathy, lack of name recognition or money for mailers may have contributed to his loss, he said.

"I'll probably have to relocate," he said. "I hate to leave Idaho. It's where I grew up, but you get yourself in a niche field, and you don't have a lot of options."

Chilton will face Carol Stirling in the general election.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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