Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Boosted by the pandemic, ‘constitutional sheriffs’ are a political force

By Kimberly Kindy Washington Post

As Mark Lomax campaigns for the top law enforcement position in Bucks County, Pa., there’s one question some voters keep asking: Will he be a “constitutional sheriff”?

The 62-year-old former state trooper has largely avoided the polarizing label, which refers to a movement of sheriffs who argue that their power to interpret the law is above any state or federal authority — even the president.

Lomax embraces the unique powers of elected sheriffs, who report directly to voters, unlike police chiefs, who are generally hired and fired at will by city councils. “You pretty much have no authority above you government-wise; you answer to the voters,” Lomax said, adding that despite this freedom he plans to be “a sheriff who enforces the laws.”

In dozens of races around the nation, answering that question has become a key campaign topic, as the constitutional sheriffs movement has capitalized on anger at pandemic restrictions. While it’s unclear exactly how many law enforcement officials embrace the ideology, one group that promotes it claims up to a tenth of the nation’s sheriffs as dues-paying members, and numerous candidates for sheriff now on the ballot echo its rhetoric.

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