The Democratic candidate trying to succeed the longest-serving sheriff in Illinois history has died.

Johnson County Sheriff Elry Faulkner tells WSIL-TV that Jay Merchant was found unresponsive Tuesday by a family member and was later pronounced dead at a Marion Hospital.

The cause of death has not been released.

Merchant was a former Vienna Correctional Center warden who ran unopposed as a Democrat in last week's primary election. He was to face Republican and part-time sheriff's deputy Charles Harner in November.

Merchant had spent three decades with the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Faulkner is retiring after 40 years as sheriff.

Ben185