Unknown Alameda County Supervisor Candidate Makes Public Safety Top Priority

Mark Turnquist

ELECTION ‘12//ALCO SUPERVISOR DIST 2 | In the high-profile Alameda County District 2 supervisor special election, Richard Valle and Mary represented varying degrees of liberalism, Mark Green carries the center of the electoral spectrum and political novice Mark Turnquist definitely treads far to the right. But, who is Turnquist?

Up until recently, Turnquist was a 23-year deputy for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. He retired last week and has jumped right into the cauldron of one of the marquee political matchups in the entire Bay Area this fall.Turnquist is a veteran of the Navy and served in the Middle East during the first Gulf War. He grew up in Montana and before relocating to the East Bay he took over his ailing grandfather’s backhoe business. In 1989, he became a deputy at the sheriff’s department and worked at various levels of law enforcement from guard at Santa Rita Jail to working with troubled youths.

His first foray into politics almost came in 2006 when he pulled papers to run for county sheriff following the retirement of Charlie Plummer, but did not qualify for the ballot. The job went to Greg Ahern. This time around, he says the impetus for his campaign is to help steward the county through realignment of jail services from the state to counties. While noting public safety is his top priority, he called realignment “an overwhelming financial burden.”

Although a registered Republican, Turnquist said he opts for the best candidate and often votes for Democrats. But, his comments Friday night during a forum at the Hayward Democratic Club, Turnquist’s stances on the death penalty, taxing the rich and tough, but compassionate rhetoric regarding troubled youth was undisputedly conservative.

In response to a question on Proposition 34, the state initiative to ban capital punishment and replace it with life in prison, Turnquist said he opposes it. “This county has not given the death penalty to a cop killer. It’s a pathetic shame and I’m for the death penalty for people who kill people,” he said. “It’s a shame that people want to get rid of the death penalty when even the Bible says, ‘an eye for an eye.’”

Regarding taxes, Turnquist believes in a mixture of taxing the rich and offering tax breaks for job creators. “Many of these rich people are our employers,” Turnquist said. “If you tax the heck out of them, they’ll just pack up and leave. We have to have an equal medium.”

When it comes to helping troubled teens and young adults, Turnquist’s plain-spoken rhetoric dances lightly across hard line law and order and tough love. Although, sometimes discerning between the two is difficult. Following a more nuanced answer by Supervisor Richard Valle for creating new opportunities for young people, Turnquist touted his rapport with troubled youth who have come through Santa Rita, which he estimates at over 700,000 during his career.“All these gang bangers Richard talks about, if you ask any one of them, who I am, they’ll tell you,” he said. “We need to get these gang bangers educated and employed so they don’t hang out on the streets.”

“All my life, I’ve been working with the youth and they have a hard ladder to climb. Every year they keep taking money from education and we need to put a stop to it.” Later, he even offered to enlist youth to clean up persistent graffiti in Hayward and throughout District 2. “I still have my bus license from the sheriff’s department hauling inmates,” he said. “I have no problem filling a bus and taking people to filthy neighborhoods and cleaning them up.” 

After Friday night’s forum in Hayward, however, Turnquist laid out the harshest attack in a race certain to become a mudslinger’s paradise. When asked whether Turnquist, with a strong background in law enforcement, entered the race in response to Hayashi’s infamous brush with the law and misdemeanor conviction for shoplifting last January, he denied it, but wryly added, “I wanted to ask her who was her probation officer because I probably know them. I know them all.”