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Sunday, January 03, 2010
Turner Aims for 'Big Tent' GOP
By Sean Olson
Journal Staff Writer
Doug Turner says his long-term ambition doesn't lie in holding an elective office.
The 40-year-old public relations firm owner and New Mexico native hopes to serve eight years as governor "and then get out of the way."
His longer-term goal, he said, is to build a Republican Party that is accessible and enticing for coming generations — a throwback to President Ronald Reagan's "big tent" philosophy.
"I think we need to get back to that," Turner said.
The idea of inclusion helps guide his political principles and keeps him away from preaching about polarizing issues, he said.
"I can push my perspective on why I'm against abortion on you, and you can push your perspective on why you're for or against stem cell research and we can beat each other up all day long," Turner said. "But if we want to look at the issues that directly affect most New Mexicans, and if we as Republicans have an expectation we can win in this state, then we have to talk about the issues that are important to most people."
He said government should make it easier for people to get jobs, take care of their children and receive a good education.
"The other stuff, I think government just needs to get out of the way, and that's sort of an overarching philosophy I have," he said.
Turner sharpened his political skills working as a "very junior staffer" for then-Sen. Pete Domenici after graduating from American University. He ran a U.S. Senate campaign in New Mexico for his father, Bill Turner, three years after graduating with a master's degree in international relations from the Université libre de Bruxelles in Belgium.
He went on to help Republican Gov. Gary Johnson win two elections, working as Johnson's second-term campaign manager for his 1998 re-election to the Governor's Office. Turner never worked inside Johnson's administration but spearheaded some special projects for the governor, including Johnson's school voucher initiative.
Although he shares some libertarian perspectives with Johnson, Turner said people shouldn't expect a carbon copy of the former governor. Turner said he would be a more pragmatic leader, getting things accomplished — boosting the state's energy economy and improving education are big Turner priorities — rather than just saying no to a Democratic Legislature.
In his personal business, Turner turned a one-man public relations firm into a 25-person operation that specializes in public policy issues. The work has taken him to projects all over the world — including working for the Japanese Democratic Party and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. It's his in-state experience, however, that gives Turner an edge over his primary opponents, he said.
"I probably have a deeper understanding of more issues that impact the state than any other Republican running right now," Turner said.
He said his public relations work and campaign experience have prepared him for a heated election.
"I've traveled probably to every corner of the state more times than I can remember with (Johnson)," Turner said. "So I've certainly walked through fire in a gasoline suit before, just not as a candidate."