Editor, Times-Union:

Before voting, it’s good to learn the positions of the persons for whom we’re voting; it matters. In the case of the current election for sheriff in our county, I read Jim Smith’s campaign website carefully. One thing in particular stood out to me.

Despite the claim that he’s for “more service, less politics” (his primary slogan), the fourth starred item of claimed positive qualities, which one can find by scrolling down the page, is that he’s a “constitutional sheriff.” This phrase rang a bell for me, since I’d heard the term used in other contexts. And those other contexts are not positive.

The “constitutional sheriff” movement is still a bit of a fringe or extreme group that claims that its members are the defenders of the U.S. Constitution, at the county level, against all other law enforcement, including federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI. They claim this because of their oath to uphold the Constitution. But this ignores the fact that the armed services, naturalized citizens and essentially the rest of us all subscribe to supporting and upholding the Constitution. What this claim does is support the erroneous notion that county sheriffs can and should interpret the law themselves, a task that is not delegated to them by the Constitution: Our courts are the interpreters of our Constitution and our laws, and they delegate enforcement to officers of the law.

That this is a political, not strictly law enforcement, movement is clear from some of the causes espoused by “constitutional sheriffs”: opposing local and national regulations regarding health (especially during the Covid epidemic); refusing to enforce court orders that they consider unconstitutional; opposing any registration of firearms or even background checks for purchasers of firearms, regardless of type of firearm; support of the January 6, 2021, insurrectionists (I don’t know whether Mr. Smith is a supporter, or not; many members of the organization are supporters).

Do “constitutional sheriffs” support some good things? Yes. But the items I’ve listed above go beyond their jurisdiction: They are attempting to usurp functions of the legislature and of the courts. I, for one, do not want law enforcement personnel in our community to be involved in these sorts of activities. “Sheriff" should not be a political position; but “constitutional sheriff” is a political movement, one that works against our representative democracy.

Will Mr. Smith distance himself from this movement? If not, he should not be elected sheriff of Kosciusko County.


Jim Eisenbraun

Warsaw, via e-mail