Voters who believe in the rule of law are fortunate to have two worthy candidates on the ballot for Clark County sheriff. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote for David Shook or John Horch in the primary.
As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian suggests that voters study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.
The race for Clark County sheriff is a high-profile contest, with three candidates seeking to succeed Chuck Atkins, who is retiring. Crime rates have risen throughout the region, and questions abound about the conduct of law enforcement. Law and order, understandably, is a pressing concern for residents.
All three candidates have peppered the county with campaign signs, and all three present articulate reasons why they should be elected. Yet while we typically focus on the most worthy candidates when presenting our recommendations, the third candidate in this case warrants extensive discussion.
Rey Reynolds, a longtime Vancouver Police Department officer, says is elected, he will choose which laws to enforce. “If it is unjust, I will not enforce it,” he told the Editorial Board during an interview. At a previous candidate forum, he said: “Simply put, I will not enforce unconstitutional laws. Your Second Amendment rights are absolutely critical to me; 1639 is a major violation of your civil rights.”
Initiative 1639 was passed by 59 percent of voters statewide in 2018. It contains a series of gun-control measures, including raising the minimum age for the purchase of semiautomatic weapons from 18 to 21. Thus far, the law has been upheld by the courts.
Not enforcing a law is a tenuous position for somebody who wishes to lead a major law enforcement agency. Determining what is and what is not constitutional is not up to a county sheriff; it is up to the courts, which decide whether the actions of the people and lawmakers violate civil rights.
What if a sheriff refused to enforce immigration laws or traffic laws or vandalism laws? The law is not a buffet where the sheriff gets to choose only the dishes they like.
In contrast, we are confident that Shook and Horch can effectively run the Clark County Sheriff’s Office while working to uphold the laws put in place by citizens and elected representatives.
Shook has had a long career in law enforcement, including the past two years with the sheriff’s office. He has worked in a variety of positions that give him a broad understanding of law enforcement, including officer training and the inner workings of a department.
Regarding Clark County’s difficulty in recruiting and retaining deputies, he said: “A lot of the leadership methods were old and antiquated. We have to change what we are offering our employees.” In addition to pay, he mentioned incentives and the opportunity to perform various duties as being increasingly important for retaining employees. Shook noted that funding for public safety already takes a majority of the county budget, leaving little room for increased funding.
Horch is a 33-year veteran of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and currently is the chief criminal deputy. “This is a big job and requires somebody who can step in on Day 1,” he said.
Horch suggests logical, thoughtful approaches for dealing with issues such as staff retention, a dilapidated county jail and budget constraints.
Following the primary, The Columbian’s Editorial Board will recommend one candidate for Clark County sheriff. But for now, we recommend the two who best will enforce the law: David Shook and John Horch.