Updated: Dec 30, 2019
In 1976, Iowa Attorney General Richard "Dick" Turner was Gov. Ronald Reagan's most prominent supporter within the state Republican Party. Turner was a conservative firebrand with an offbeat sense of humor. He loved to provoke liberals at the Des Moines Register and was a target of their incessant criticism and pearl-clutching.
I created a statewide group called Friends of Dick Turner (FODT) in hopes of getting him to run for higher office--either governor (against a liberal GOP incumbent) or U.S. senator (against Democratic incumbent Dick Clark). Dick Turner took notice of my efforts and wanted to meet with me.
I came within feet of the attorney general on one occasion: at a gas station in southwest Iowa, while visiting my grandparents. Turner assumed I was an adult ("Mr. Taylor"). I was too embarrassed to introduce myself because I was only a high school kid.
I didn't talk face-to-face with Dick Turner until after he made the decision--very sad for me--to stick with his current job and not run for U.S. Senate. In May 1978, I went up to him at the end of a Kiwanis dinner in Spencer and told him I was Jeff Taylor. He was surprised by my age but was very nice. In fact, he dropped me off at my house in his mobile home. The following month, we met up again at the Iowa Republican State Convention. He invited me to tag along with him and we made the rounds at swanky Hilton Hotel suites in Des Moines. He introduced me to party leaders like Iowa First Lady Billie Ray, Secretary of Agriculture Bob Lounsberry, and former Congressman Bill Scherle.
Regrettably, Turner was defeated for reelection in November 1978 by Tom Miller and Iowa has been stuck with him ever since. Like four years earlier, Turner backed Gov. Reagan for the 1980 presidential nomination. After the election, Dick Turner asked me to write a letter in support of his bid to become U.S. Attorney for the southern district of Iowa. He was chosen. Sadly, he died unexpectedly in 1986.
Dick Turner was a great conservative leader. In a 1982 note, he told me, "I suppose by now you are ready to start law school and that one day soon you'll be running for the legislature." After graduating from Northwestern College, I took a couple different career paths, rather than becoming an attorney. It wasn't "soon," but I'm now running for the legislature.
If chosen by the voters of District 2, I would be honored to follow in the footsteps of Richard C. Turner, who served in the Iowa state senate, representing Pottawattamie County in the early 1960s. My paternal grandparents lived in the same county.