ARLINGTON — Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney is facing criticism for inviting a controversial far-right sheriff and U.S. Senate candidate from Arizona to speak at a private campaign fundraiser Saturday.
Self-proclaimed “American Sheriff” Mark Lamb has expressed sympathy for the Jan. 6 rioters and refused to enforce the state’s stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortney called Washington’s stay-home order unconstitutional.
“No vaccine, no mask,” Lamb posted on Instagram in 2021. “I did test positive though for Americanitis!”
Lamb, a frequent guest on Fox News, also has ties to the “constitutional sheriff” movement that propagates the belief that sheriffs are the supreme legal authority in the United States — superseding the federal government and even the president. He is now challenging incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat-turned-independent, for office in Arizona.
Fortney, the incumbent, is being challenged by Susanna Johnson, the deputy police chief in Bothell, who welcomed about 30 people for a wine tasting to raise campaign cash Thursday. The speakers at Johnson’s event were State Rep. April Berg, D-Mill Creek, and Vicci Hilty, former executive director for Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County.
On Saturday, Fortney anticipates hosting about 100 guests at his event in Arlington with ticket prices ranging from $50 to $250. Lamb is the sheriff of Pinal County, the third-most populous county in the state. Fortney also invited Derek Sanders, sheriff of Thurston County.
In an interview, Fortney said he invited Lamb because the Arizona sheriff runs an “innovative” juvenile redirection program. Fortney mirrored the concept for his LEAD The Way program, an eight-week class for kids to develop life skills, like decision-making, accountability and leadership, he explained.
When asked if he agrees with Lamb’s politics, Fortney quickly grew angry.
“You’re talking about (expletive) from three years ago,” Fortney said. “I invited a fellow elected sheriff who I think is doing fantastic things for his community.”
“I don’t want to talk anymore,” he continued. “I’m done. I’m done.”
Fortney then told a Daily Herald reporter to leave his office, declining to comment on any other aspects of his fundraiser, campaign or platform.
Attendees at Johnson’s event were not required to purchase tickets, but $50 donations were encouraged.
Berg, a mother of six and longtime county resident, called Fortney hosting Lamb “abhorrent.”
“As a community member, it makes me feel less safe,” Berg said in an interview. “I mean, that’s just bottom line.”
Johnson said she also does not understand Fortney’s decision to invite Lamb.
“Lamb has a documented track record of hate speech,” Johnson said. “He overtly supports the Jan. 6 insurrection and has excused the violence and death of law enforcement officers. I just don’t get having somebody like that.”
“Overall, I think that those extremist views don’t represent the values of Snohomish County,” Johnson continued. “That’s concerning to me.”
Neither Lamb nor Sanders could be reached for comment.
Berg cited Fortney’s decision to reinstate multiple deputies the previous sheriff had fired as one of the reasons she does not support Fortney. She also condemned the way Fortney handled “what happened on First Street,” when 100 armed vigilantes gathered in Snohomish with guns, tactical gear and at least one Confederate flag to “protect” boutiques from alleged “antifa” looters who never materialized.
Among those wearing tactical gear in Snohomish that week was Daniel “Milkshake” Scott, a member of the hate group the Proud Boys who was on the front lines of the Jan. 6 insurrection. This month, Scott was sentenced to five years in federal prison for assaulting a Capitol Police officer.
“I do not feel like I am being served as a resident well by the current sheriff, but more importantly, Susanna will make a fantastic sheriff,” Berg said. “She is qualified, she’s dedicated, she’s intentional and she has the experience to really get us back to a place where everybody in the community can feel safe.”
On Saturday, before Fortney’s fundraiser, Arlington is hosting an LGBTQ+ Pride event where the state Office of the Attorney General has called on city leaders to enforce a ban on open carry of firearms, amid fears that protestors could show up and try to intimidate attendees.
Fortney’s event is set to start at 5 p.m. at The Mule Palace, 19920 43rd Ave NE.