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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 09/98: US midterms  
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US midterms Wednesday, 4 November, 1998, 13:17 GMT
Close second for dead sheriff
In one of the more bizarre electoral contests, the man who served as Los Angeles County sheriff for 17 years secured one third of votes for re-election, even though he died last Thursday.

Sherman Block, who was aiming for his fifth term, was left on the ballot as his dying wish.

And he even managed to cast a vote for himself before his death using an absentee ballot.

Early returns revealed that Lee Baca, a 32-year veteran of the sheriff's department, beat Mr Block by a two to one margin.

He wins one of the most lucrative public offices in America, with a salary of $234,000 compared to $200,000 for the president.

Sherman Block had survived two bouts of cancer and suffered from kidney failure that required him to undergo dialysis three times a week.

But as late as last week he insisted he was fit enough for another term in office.

His death at 74 from a brain hemorrhage meant there was not enough time for a replacement to be placed on the ballot.

Health a campaign issue

Lee Baca becomes the first Mexican American to hold the post in a police department that has been accused in recent years of being hostile to racial minorities.

His supporters criticised the posthumous Block campaign as a "macabre spectacle" designed to rob the electorate of the chance to choose a successor to Block.

Mr Baca made Mr Block's poor health a campaign issue - one Block spokesman commenting after the sheriff's death, "I guess health is no longer an issue."

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