Sheriff Lamb Goes to Washington?
December 15, 2022
Last week, Arizona Senator Kirsten Sinema left the Democratic party to register as an Independent. Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb has said that he will consider running for the Senate seat as a Republican, largely (so the rumors go) based on encouragement from Kari Lake.
I spent time with Lamb back in the summer of 2021 for a profile I wrote for Politico. We spent most of the day together and ate at a local diner. Lamb ordered bacon. That’s it. He told me that he was on a diet and had lost around 30 pounds.
It’s true that he has lost weight since his 2016 election (in addition to changing his look). His wife had weight-loss surgery in Mexico as well (which she now touts on Instagram and is the subject of her recent book). I took it as a sign that both were becoming television-ready for politics. But I have also begun to think about the function of “weight loss” and “health” as part of an entire far-right obsession with opposing the COVID vaccine, which Lamb famously has.
My main point here is that during our interview, Lamb told a number of lies and misinformation all while denying that he was interested in higher office (which he obviously is). But perhaps the lies are not as interesting as thinking about what it means to have a far-right sheriff run for federal office – the first one to run for Senate as a Republican with a meaningful chance of winning. Below, I point out some of the things he said, quoting more fully from the transcript in the interest of fairness. Please note that I did do some editing, including cutting repetition and a lot of “ums” and “likes” from me.
Lamb denied at the time that he was interested in running for office. Here’s what he said:
I'll be honest, I've never had a desire to run for Senate or Congress. I'm a patriot at heart. I love America. And I will serve the people where I can. And I feel like right now. My best way I can serve is here.
He went on to ask if I had watched “The Swamp,” (my answer: no) and added:
The beauty of sheriffs is you represent the people. And, it's a direct representation. It's not like Congress where you dilute down. It's not like Senate. You can actually effect change as the sheriff. And you can do it in a timely manner. And I like that. I think there's, there is a beauty to that.
The day before we met, I read and watched a New York Times video story that gave a chronological account of January 6. The violence made me ill. I asked Lamb quite a lot of questions about January 6, especially when he began to wax poetic on the “rule of law” and the need to stop “no bail” policies (which don’t exist), and the need to arrest left-leaning protestors associated with various uprisings across the country.
Me: Would you say something like the people on January 6 should be prosecuted, but also other people as well?
Lamb: I can't say that. I don't know what they did.
Me: You don't know.
Lamb: I mean, honestly, I'm a law enforcement guy. I can't just say you were there. You're guilty. Yeah, I would have to view video, I would have to see evidence of a crime being broken. I saw plenty of evidence to find laws being broken all last year, people throwing bottles, you know, bottles at police officers, destroying buildings, lighting things on fire, refusing to disperse, those are all crimes being committed that nobody was really held accountable for, or very few people. It's not my job to investigate, you know, what happening on January 6. And if I found that crimes were committed, then yeah, you'd have to hold those people accountable. Just because somebody was there doesn't necessarily mean they're guilty. And I think we have to be very careful that we don't turn that into a political investigation.
Two lies to point out. First, I had just watched video of January 6. So, it’s not true we “don’t know.” The interview was held before the January 6 hearings, so I would be curious to know what Lamb thinks now.
Second, thousands of people were arrested for participation in various uprisings against police brutality in 2020. One estimate puts the number around 14,000.
Lamb also has a lot to say about Trump losing the election:
Me: I noticed some of your followers are what we might call very strongly anti-Black Lives Matter. They feel very opposed to like, progressive movements. And in this case, you know, there's people, a lot of people who think that Trump won the election. They don't think Biden is president. I haven't heard you say any of that. But you've got some of your followers. What do you do about that? How do you manage that?
Lamb: I'm going to push back on you a little bit on that. Because I think that automatically when somebody supports Trump, they automatically assume that they don't care about [people of color]. I don't subscribe to the organization. I don't think that Black Lives Matter is productive for the Blacks. I don't. … I can't control who supports me or how passionate they are against an organization or for an organization. But I, my pushback is that I think a lot of people that immediately are deemed as anti this or anti that because they're so conservative or support Trump. Right? I think that's an unfair characteristic. Because I guarantee you those people are very loving Christian people. They just happen to support President Trump a lot.
Me: What about people who think Trump won the election?
Lamb: I'm in law enforcement, and my job is to look at inconsistencies, look for evidence, I think you have a significant amount of concerning information that has voters very concerned as to whether or not these elections can be trusted. And you cannot just pigeonhole that into the Republicans, because four years ago, the democrats went to Capitol Hill saying the exact same things. We owe it for the American people… I guess my answer to that is, is you have to acknowledge that 70 million Americans feel slighted. you can't ignore that you have to address that.
Me: Couldn't you on a push back a little bit on this? Couldn't you also say something like, look, you need to accept that this is a legitimate government, you need to respect, as you say, respect the rule of law?
Lamb: There's a lot of suspicious activity. Where's all the video from that? Where's the 14,000 hours of video? Where is why did the police let people pass the barriers? There's a lot of questions that I have, that I think need to be answered. But I think that the media and the politicians are playing this out as “Oh, my God.” It's so I don't have all the facts. I would love to know the facts…I'm a very pro freedom person. I believe in letting people live the way that they feel like they need to live. I don't believe I have ever said that Joe Biden is not the president.
Lamb went on:
I've never done any of that. [Editor’s note: He’s referring here to election denialism. Which is a lie.] And I, and I feel like that should be sufficient. I shouldn't have to tell people. You need to let this go, or you need to do that. That's not how I operate. My job is to uphold the law.
The story had an afterlife. In the days after it was published, Protect America Now sent an email using the piece and the photograph (without crediting the photographer) to raise money. I wasn’t necessarily surprised that this happened because far-right sheriffs – and Lamb in particular – love media about themselves. This could be a reason not to write the story or to profile far-right sheriffs. I obviously don’t agree with that reasoning, but I do think there is a point worth considering. The more I report on sheriffs, the more I see how journalism is really a conversation not just among writers but also among communities, politics, and subjects.
This is the point of my putting some of this conversation with Lamb out into the world. A profile or feature story is, of course, a finished product. But in this case, there’s value to see how Lamb talks and why – as the first viable “constitutional sheriff” candidate for Senate – we should all be concerned.
Anyone who is white and says “the Blacks” terrifies me.