UPDATE (8/31/16): Wilson lost the Republican primary by a wide margin to Graham Harbold.
Back in 2014, we reported that Richard Mack, a former sheriff from Arizona who now heads the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), had signed on to a plan to move to Navajo County, Arizona, to run for office and create what he called a “constitutional county.” He urged supporters to consider moving to the county as well to support him as sheriff in 2016 and begin to establish a “blueprint” county that would operate according to his vision of county-level resistance to federal laws that he believes are unconstitutional.
“I want you to carefully, prayerfully consider moving there with me, and I’m serious,” he told an anti-gun-law rally that year. “You want to live in a free county? You want to live by constitutional law? You want to not be worried about federal government coming in and ruining your lives and families and hauling you off at midnight? Come live with us there.”
Mack didn’t show up on the ballot, so we assumed that the project was off, or at least delayed. But late last month Mack announced that while he had dropped his plan to run for sheriff because of health problems he had signed on as a candidate for “under sheriff” in Navajo County alongside “constitutional” Republican candidate Dawn Wilson.
Wilson made her ideology clear in a joint radio interview with Mack earlier this month, saying that once elected, “I want to first of all train our officers on the Constitution, train our citizens to know their rights, and then I want to build a barrier between the citizens of Navajo County and the federal government to keep them out. They don’t need to be coming into our county and harassing us, they don’t need to be calling for gun control. The sheriff needs to stand up and put their foot down and say, ‘No, it’s not going to happen here.’”
Mack and his followers contend that county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement officers in the nation, having authority over the federal government in their respective counties. This idea emerged from the racist and anti-Semitic “Posse Comitatus” movement of the 1970s and ‘80s but has since taken on a separate life of its own in today’s far-right.
As we wrote in 2014:
Mack focuses most of his advocacy on promoting county- and state-level resistance to federal gun laws—he won a Supreme Court case against the Brady bill in the ‘90s—but has also involved his group in anti-immigration efforts and has spoken out against LGBT rights, urging sheriffs to back up county clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, he finds common ground with many progressives in hisopposition to the drug war.
Mack, a board member of the Oath Keepers, was a prominent presence earlier this year at the Bundy ranch in Nevada, where armed “Patriot” and militia groups resisted the Bureau of Land Management’s effort to collect more than a million dollars in grazing fees that rancher Cliven Bundy had refused to pay for 20 years of using federal lands. Mack compared the stand of the anti-government groups at the Bundy ranch to Rosa Parks’ resistance to segregation.
An acolyte of “New World Order” alarmist Cleon Skousen, Mack shares his movement’s taste for conspiracy theories. Mack believes that President Obama fabricated his birth certificate and is threatening those who know about it to keep them from coming forward, has speculated that the 1995 Waco siege was a federal government setup to rustle up more ATF funding, and said this year that he had “no doubt” the federal government might stage a false flag attack on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Mack said in a late July radio interview that his and Wilson’s candidacy was a “long shot.” Wilson is up against one opponent in the August 30 GOP primary and then would face the Democratic incumbent in the general election. Mack mentioned in the interview that his and Wilson’s chances would improve if they gained the support of the Navajo Nation. The county, which includes large parts of several Indian reservations, is about 45 percent American Indian.