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Jackson County elects new state's attorney; retains coroner, treasurer
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Jackson County elects new state's attorney; retains coroner, treasurer

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CARBONDALE — After a long night of counting votes, Jackson County elected a new state’s attorney and reelected its coroner.

Republican challenger Joe Cervantez, who ran for state’s attorney, ended the night with a winning 52.86% of the vote after 100% of the precincts were reported. Democrat incumbent Mike Carr’s total came to 47.14%.

“The people have spoken and my congratulations go out to Joe Cervantez,” Carr said Wednesday morning.

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“Elections have consequences and I’m very grateful, to say the least, that I had the opportunity to serve Jackson County for two terms,” he said.

Cervantez, who has previously served as an assistant state’s attorney in Williamson County, said the news still hadn’t set in that he won.

“I don’t think it will until I get sworn in,” Cervantez said.

Reflecting on his journey from “the other side of the law” to the county’s top law enforcement officer, he said he should be an example for people who are struggling to find their path in life.

“They can right the ship and find their way,” he said.

Cervantez said he was reminded on the campaign trail that he would be the first person of color to serve as state’s attorney in the county. He had not considered that fact before, he said, but realized how important it was.

“It’s important for people to see people like me in office sometimes,” he said.

During the campaign, Cervantez often criticized Carr’s reputation for not taking cases that aren’t a slam dunk. He was also highly visible during the campaign, appearing at rallies and vigils in support of those impacted by police violence. Carr said he supported these causes, but because of COVID-19 was not able to attend any of the public gatherings.

Carr has been a prosecutor for nearly 30 years, with time spent in Benton as an assistant U.S. attorney hired under the Ronald Reagan administration. In his tenure in Jackson County, which began in 2012, he has headed prosecution on several high-profile cases, including the 2016 shooting death of local musician Tim Beaty and the prosecution of Jody Pullen for the 2019 shooting between Tres Hombres and ABC Liquor in Carbondale, which injured four.

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Jackson County retains its coroner

The race for coroner was decided narrowly — 170 votes is all that separated Thomas Kupferer and Alex Crawshaw. Kupferer came away with the win, though.

“I’m very humbled by the support that I received, which led to my victory,” Kupferer said, adding that he looks forward to serving the people of Jackson County for the next four years. He said he plans to continue to work on the office’s efficiency — something Crawshaw criticized him for.

Crawshaw had not yet conceded Wednesday.

“The race isn’t over yet,” he said, noting that there were still mail-in ballots to be counted. However, Wednesday morning Jackson County Clerk Frank Boyd said he did not anticipate that the remaining uncounted votes would change any of the election results.

Kupferer, a Democrat from Murphysboro, has served in the office since 1996, when he was the second person with a medical background to be elected to the position — in Illinois, the coroner is not required to have a medical background as autopsies are conducted by forensic pathologists.

Crawshaw, a Republican from Murphysboro, runs Crawshaw Funeral Home with his father in his hometown of Murphysboro. Crawshaw said part of his training as a funeral director, specifically how to be compassionate in a time of crisis, would have lent him an advantage in the job of coroner.

Four county board seats and the race for treasurer

Democrat incumbent treasurer Liz Hunter was voted in to finish out the final two years of the unexpired term she assumed for Sharon Harris Johnson when she retired about a year ago. She said she knew she’d like the job when she took it, and that was solidified after she started work.

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“Once I got into the role I really fell into it and just really felt like it was a duty I had … to move the office forward,” she said. She said she hopes to explore efficiencies in the office to save money.

Hunter defeated Republican Jason Svanda.

The county’s four contested county board seats were also awarded. Gene Basden II, a Republican, defeated Joshua Hellmann, of the Green Party, in the county’s third district. In District 4, Democrat Tamiko "T.C." Mueller defeated the Green Party’s Rich Whitney. Democrat Julie Peterson defeated Republican Darrel Dunham in the county’s fifth district. Jessica Edmond, a Democrat, won out against Republican Navreet Kang and Green Party candidate Charlie Howe to represent District 6.

isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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