COLORADO VOTES 2022: Coroner Kelly Lear, now a Democrat, faces challenge from Ron Bouchard

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Ron Bouchard | Kelly Lear

Kelly Lear, an 18-year veteran of the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office, is seeking re-election this fall, opposed by Republican microscopist Ron Bouchard.

Bouchard did not return his Sentinel survey. His campaign website says he is running to bring greater transparency to the office. He said he wants to “elucidate the root cause of deaths associated with global COVID-19 pandemic” and investigate cases of “sudden adult death syndrome,” a diagnosis that vaccine skeptics have claimed without evidence is being used to hide the true nature of vaccine-related deaths.

Lear has promoted herself as the only physician and forensic pathologist on the ballot and said she is running to uphold her office’s high standard of work.

“I am seeking re-election in order to give the families that we serve the highest-quality medicolegal death investigation, something that happens only with medically informed leadership,” she wrote in her Sentinel survey.

“I believe that it is vital that a medical doctor be the person directing medical decisions and determining the cause and manner of death; families deserve to have this resource available to them when seeking answers to a tragic death.”

Meet Kelly Lear

Kelly Lear

Kelly Lear

Kelly Lear has worked for the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office since 2004, serving as a forensic pathologist and chief deputy coroner before she was appointed to the top role, and later elected, in 2014. She is a clinical faculty member at the University of Colorado Medical Campus and at Rocky Vista University, and teaches medical students and pathology residents from numerous medical and osteopathic schools. She earned her bachelor's degree in biology, biochemistry and molecular biology from Cornell College and her doctorate of medicine from the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She is also board-certified in anatomic and clinical pathology and forensic pathology and is licensed to practice medicine in the state of Colorado. Lear is running this year as a Democrat. She lives in Littleton with her daughter.

Kelly Lear Q&A

How will you ensure your office’s independence and neutrality when determining the cause of death of police detainees or in cases involving confrontations with law enforcement?

 

The Coroner’s Office should serve a medical role, not a political or prosecutorial function; relying on medical experience and training ensures neutrality when causes of death are determined in all cases. The Coroner’s Office is an independent agency, not under the influence of law enforcement or attorney’s offices, and I must adhere to national standards including the National Association of Medical Examiners scientific position paper on “Deaths In Custody.” The deceased person is my patient, and I must most accurately and honestly diagnose that person’s cause of death, just as any other physician has a responsibility to care for their patient. Our office’s investigative role is to autonomously gather as much data as possible from all available sources, not merely relying on information provided by law enforcement. We must also recognize that implicit bias will exist within material from most sources and acknowledge that we all bring some degree of cognitive bias that must be checked. In the digital era, one of the best ways to ensure my own independence is to view any and all available video materials of an event (which often includes body camera footage), rather than relying on another person to report to me what the video is purported to show. I am then able to make my determinations of cause of death based on the autopsy and investigative findings. The agencies with whom I work in the county respect that my decisions are medically-based and know that my autopsy reports and death certificates are issued without outside influence.

 

How do you plan to lead the Coroner’s office through an evolving opioid and fentanyl crisis?

 

I have overseen the office through the prescription opioid epidemic, which over the past decade has evolved into the current fentanyl crisis that we have faced over the past two (plus) years. This includes management of an increasing number of potential overdose deaths that require investigation, autopsy and toxicology, stretching our personnel and our budget. Our overall case load increased almost 45% between 2019 and 2021; because of this, I have secured an increase in staffing and operating funds necessary to continue to serve our community at the highest level. Nationally, other offices have seen extraordinary backlogs of cases, some requiring families to wait 6 months or more for results; despite our increase, we have maintained our accreditation standard of at least 90% of our cases being finalized within 60 days. Unfortunately, no shortcut is available for these potential fentanyl-related deaths; they must receive a thorough forensic autopsy and toxicology for medically accurate cause of death determination. I also continue to be a staunch advocate for education and prevention; my office participates in multiple layers of data collection used by public health and partner agencies for prevention and treatment efforts, and I frequently speak to a wide variety of groups (ranging from local high schoolers to senior commissions) to provide education and information regarding the current and evolving trends in the opioid and fentanyl epidemic.

 

What is your top priority upon being elected?

 

I am seeking re-election in order to give the families that we serve the highest-quality medicolegal death investigation, something that happens only with medically informed leadership. I believe that it is vital that a medical doctor be the person directing medical decisions and determining the cause and manner of death; families deserve to have this resource available to them when seeking answers to a tragic death. Parallel to this, it is also my priority to maintain national accreditation of the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office through the National Association of Medical Examiners; we are one of only four offices in the state to have achieved this high standard of medicolegal death investigation.

 

Do you believe the 2020 Presidential Election was absent of widespread fraud and fairly won by Joe Biden?  

 

Absolutely.

 

Do you trust the election process in Colorado? And will you accept the outcome of this election as announced?

 

Yes.

Get to know Kelly Lear

What’s the most Colorado thing you’ve done recently?

 

Stand-up paddle boarding on a mountain lake.

 

What is the last concert you attended?

 

Brandi Carlile at Red Rocks.

 

What restaurant do you frequent most?

 

Palenque Cocina Y Agaveria (for the queso and prickly pear margaritas…).

 

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

 

The ability to fly.

 

What was the last book you read?

 

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman (courtesy of the #1 Best Book Club ever).

 

What is your least favorite household chore?

 

Folding laundry.

 

If you had to pick one television show to watch forever, what would it be?

 

So hard, I don’t watch very much TV, but right now it’s a toss up between Stranger Things and Ted Lasso. I also was rabid for the original X-Files; that was the only show I would “tape” to watch later (back when that was necessary if you weren’t available to sit in front of the television when the episodes were broadcast!).

 

Did you have any New Year's resolutions? What were they?

 

I am not much of a New Year’s resolution maker; however I do have an occasional New Year’s ritual of putting slips of paper in a gratitude jar which I read through on NYE (I am not great about doing this every year, but I try...).

 

What were you most excited to do after pandemic restrictions eased?

 

Travel.

 

What fun fact about you would most surprise people who know you?

 

I used to race Ironman triathlons at an elite level. That wouldn’t surprise people that I have known for years, but not something I have done in quite some time.

Meet Ron Bouchard

Ron Bouchard

Ron Bouchard

Republican challenger Ron Bouchard is running to serve as Arapahoe County’s coroner, bringing over 30 years of basic science research laboratory experience in the university and medical fields to the role. His expertise includes microscopy and digital imaging of tissue and cellular biology, application sciences, equipment and facilities management, and systems operations. He worked for 15 years as a research biologist with the Denver VA Medical Center. Bouchard earned his bachelor’s degree in ceramics and photography from Louisiana State University.

Ron Bouchard Q&A

Did not respond

Get to know Ron Bouchard

Did not respond

 

 

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