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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
News / Opinion / Editorials

In Our View: Vote John Horch for Clark County sheriff

The Columbian
Published: September 25, 2022, 6:03am

Voters who believe in the rule of law are fortunate to have one worthy candidate on the ballot for Clark County sheriff. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote for John Horch in the Nov. 8 general election.

This is merely a recommendation designed to provide information and generate thoughtful discussion. The Columbian trusts that voters will become familiar with the candidates and the issues to develop an informed opinion. Most important, we suggest that all citizens who are eligible should be registered to vote and then exercise their constitutional right.

In studying the candidates for sheriff, voters will find that Horch has the necessary qualifications and demeanor to oversee the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. He has worked in the department for 33 years and currently is the chief criminal deputy. He has served in a variety of positions in the office, ranging from commander of the Drug Task Force to bomb technician, developing a broad understanding of the department’s duties.

“This is a big job and requires somebody who can step in on Day 1,” Horch said during an interview with the editorial board. “It’s going to take somebody with some courage and some leadership.”

Perhaps most important, Horch said: “I am not the sole authority of deciding whether a law is constitutional or not. Whether I agree or disagree with the law does not affect whether it is enforced.”

This respect for the rule of law is in sharp contrast to the other candidate in the race, Rey Reynolds. A longtime member of the Vancouver Police Department, Reynolds has said he will not enforce laws he believes to be unconstitutional.

That is a frightening prospect for the citizens of Clark County. Deciding what should be enforced is not the duty of a sheriff. As Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik said: “I think law enforcement officers are not the arbiters of what laws are constitutional. Just like prosecutors are not the arbiters. The courts are. There have been laws passed by the Legislature, there are situations where the courts decide laws are unconstitutional. But our system is set up where the courts decide on it.”

On the front page of his campaign website, Reynolds writes, “I will enforce the laws voted on by the citizens.” But his statements throughout the campaign belie that sentiment and leave us to wonder where he stands on the issue. It also leaves us to wonder how many laws he would choose not to enforce out of personal preference. Ambiguity is not a strong selling point for somebody who desires to be the county’s top law enforcement official.

Fortunately for voters, Horch is a reliable candidate who understands the role of the sheriff and the inner workings of the office. He is well-prepared to address issues such as staffing shortages, an outdated jail and police training.

While Reynolds’ statement in the Voters’ Pamphlet says he has taken “multiple leadership courses to include Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy for Detectives,” Horch has actually served in multiple leadership capacities. In addition to providing him with valuable training, that will earn the respect of deputies throughout the department.

During a joint interview with the editorial board, Reynolds suggested that the sheriff’s office should seek a supplemental budget from the Clark County Council; Horch correctly pointed out that they frequently do that. The issue demonstrates that one candidate understands the department and is prepared for the job.

The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends John Horch for Clark County sheriff.