Washington Sheriff Declares He Won’t Enforce Inslee’s ‘Unconstitutional’ Order

Sheriff Bob Songer. Courtesy Klickitat County
May 6, 2020 5:05 p.m.
EDITORS' NOTE: TPM is making our COVID-19 coverage free to all readers during this national health crisis. If you’d like to support TPM's reporters, editors and staff, the best way to do so is to become a member.

The sheriff of Klickitat County, Washington has decided that he’s simply not going to enforce Governor Jay Inslee’s (D) stay-at-home order.

“As Sheriff I will uphold our citizens Constitutional Rights and Liberties and will NOT ENFORCE Governor Inslee’s COVID-19 Proclamation Orders on public gatherings and non-essential businesses,” Sheriff Bob Songer told TPM, capitalization included.

He added that the governor shuttered churches and firearms dealers in violation of the 1st and 2nd Amendments, but had “no problem allowing Marijuana shops to stay open for business.” Cannabis retailers are indeed classified as essential workers in the state.

Inslee’s office seemed unimpressed by the argument.

“Only the Washington State Supreme Court has the ability to declare something unconstitutional,” communications director Tara Lee told TPM.

Rural Klickitat County is located in the southern part of the state and home to around 20,000 people.

This is not Songer’s first time defying a law he deemed unconstitutional since he’s been sheriff there.

In January of last year, he announced his refusal to enforce a state initiative that stiffened the requirements for purchasing and owning semiautomatic weapons including AR-15s.

“I think it’s a bad law and I think it violates people’s rights,” he said at the time, per the Yakima Herald. “This law will do nothing to stop crime or do anything to make our communities safer. But what it will do is make criminals out of our honest citizens.”

Songer isn’t alone in his reluctance to enforce the governor’s order: a couple of counties to the east, Franklin County Sheriff J.D. Raymond took a similar stand a couple of weeks ago.

In a letter he posted to Facebook, Raymond declared that he would not enforce the governor’s orders when they infringed on religious freedom or the operation of private businesses.

The county’s commissioners eagerly followed his lead, declaring local businesses open no matter what the governor said. They backtracked a day later, after Inslee’s counsel sent them a letter warning that any attempt to reopen local businesses would be a violation of state law.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Washington had 15,594 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 862 deaths per the state health department. Inslee has extended the state’s current stay-at-home order through May 31, but is looking to open up some businesses in phases before then.

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

TPM’s COVID-19 hub.
Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.
COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).
Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).
Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: