Rodriguez will need one percent of the voters to write his name as their vote, to move him past the primary and onto the general election ballot.
Currently, candidate Rojeana (Jeannie) Hughes is the only coroner candidate voters will find on the primary ballot which went into the mail last week. Some voters have already voted and returned their ballots so no longer would have the chance to write in Rodriguez to return to the office he currently holds.
Early in July, Hughes faced allegations from a concerned citizen, who questioned Hughes about whether she had made multiple cash withdrawals from a deceased person’s bank account and if she had been ordered by a judge to return the deceased person’s vehicle. The questioning happened during a Okanogan County Sheriff Candidates Forum, held at Tonasket High School.
During the forum, Hughes denied the allegations. She said she was not ordered by a judge to return a vehicle but was told to put it in the care of an attorney. The interaction left several unsettled and some citizens searching for another candidate for a write-in option. The search led to Rodriguez being asked to reconsider his retirement.
Write-in candidates must file a declaration to have votes tallied for a race. Write-in candidates may file a declaration of candidacy form up until 8 p.m. on election day. Rodriguez, who from the beginning said he wrestled with the decision about whether to run for a third term as coroner, has changed his mind about retiring. Rodrigues said he was approached by citizens who were interested in supporting him as a write-in candidate. Rodriguez said that over the last seven and a half years what he brings to the scene is help for those who are experiencing loss.
“A person has died. I can’t change that but I can help the family. I can professionally and compassionately take care of the body,” said Rodriguez.
“Whether you know it’s coming, are prepared for it, or it takes you by surprise,” Rodriguez said, “death is unbelievably tragic.”
He went on to say he thought he had done a really good job of maintaining that professionalism. He said many people are not aware the coroner position is an elected position.
In addition, he said he had spent a lot of my efforts making sure his office was beyond reproach.
Rodriguez, who is the first elected coroner in Okanogan County, said he doesn’t hate his job, but acknowledged that the past few years were challenging as coroner.
“The year before COVID, to last year, the case load went up 26 percent. From today’s date, to last year at this time, the caseload has gone up another 10 percent. So that’s 35 percent if this rate holds for the rest of the year,” said Rodriguez, adding he feels the county needs a Deputy Coroner in addition to the coroner.
“I have to have a mindset change and go to our commissioners. I think our current commissioners are very helpful, cooperative and understanding. I haven’t gone to them with a loaded request ever. I think the time is right. Whether I go on to be the next coroner, or it’s somebody else, the time is right to say we need a little more help here,” said Rodriguez.
According to the Okanogan County Auditor’s Office, no write-in candidate has successfully been elected in Okanogan County’s history.
“I don’t know the unknown variables of how many people still have their ballots sitting on their tables and how many of those are willing to write my name in,” said Rodriguez.
To qualify for the general election Rodriguez will have to garner approximately 250 write-in votes.