Allen County Primary Ballot Features GOP Contest For Coroner

By Jeff Neumeyer

May 4, 2012 Updated May 4, 2012 at 5:48 PM EDT

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- A dentist and a chiropractor are the Republicans vying for the right to succeed Dr. Jon Brandenberger as Allen County's coroner.

Those with a medical background aren't the only ones who can apply.

People from a variety of professions are coroners around the state, including a tugboat captain who serves in one southern Indiana County.

The coroner, among other things, is charged with investigating and ruling on violent, suspicious or unnatural deaths.

You can get elected without knowing a thing about the subject, but according to Indiana law, in six months time you've got to complete required training, or the county can withhold your pay.

Chiropractor Dr. Gary Washington has a medical degree and claims a background as an EMT and police officer.

Dr. Craig Nelson is a dentist, but since 2005, has served as a deputy coroner as well.

He thinks he's ready to step up to the main job.

Dr. Craig Nelson/(R) Coroner Candidate: " Since I've become a deputy coroner, I enjoy going and solving problems, doing investigations, finding out why somebody died."

Dr. Gary Washington/(R) Coroner Candidate: " I would like to work with the churches in the city, particularly the black churches, the Christian churches, and see what we can do to help stop some of these killings."

That's not what you normally would consider to be part of the job description, but it’s not uncommon for coroners to get involved in campaigns to raise awareness about risky behaviors such as texting and driving.

In death investigations, coroners certify cause of death, but they are not left to provide all answers on their own.

Counties, for instance, contract with pathologists who perform autopsies in the task of reaching conclusions in death cases.

While there is competition on the Republican ticket, Norman Knuth is the lone Democrat running for Allen County coroner.

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