Dave Rodriguez defeated Gary V. Reams in the race to become Okanogan County’s first elected coroner in today's general election.

In unofficial election night returns, Rodriguez had 4,275 votes, or 72.73 percent, to Reams’ 1,603, or 27.27 percent. Rodriguez ran as a Republican; Reams had no stated party preference.

Rodriguez said he was pleased with the results.

“I’m pretty humbled by it,” he said. “Now, it’s up to me to earn the vote of confidence.”

“I hope he does a good job, and congratulations,” Reams said.

Rodriguez, 53, said both candidates ran on their experience. He has 24 years of law enforcement experience and is a trained death investigator. He was a state-certified advanced EMT and worked as a volunteer EMT for 13 years.

Reams, 62, was a medic-clinical specialist in the U.S. Army, has 30 years of experience as a licensed practical nurse and in respiratory therapy. He now works for Legacy Funeral Home in Omak.

He said Rodriguez’ various certifications probably made the difference to voters.

Coroner duties have been part of the prosecuting attorney’s position. When the county’s population topped 40,000 in the 2010 census, the county was obligated under state law to create a separate coroner position.

Rodriguez said the new office’s budget is under development. He doesn’t yet know where his office will be, how much his budget will be or if he’ll have any secretarial help.

He said the salary will be about $38,800, which is a pay cut from his current position as chief criminal deputy for the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office. He does, however, plan to retire from law enforcement at the end of the year.

“It was kind of a leap of faith” for the candidates, he said.

As of election day, 9,440 ballots had been returned out of 21,384 ballots mailed out, with about 2,800 that were not counted election night because they were received Monday and Tuesday and had not been processed, the Auditor’s Office said. Turnout was 31.26 percent as of election night.

Another 11,734 ballots had not yet been returned. They must bear a postmark of Nov. 4 or earlier to be counted.

The next ballot count will be Friday. The election will be certified Nov. 25.

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