‘Genie’ vs. Reardon: entertainer Jack Turk to run for county exec

Snohomish County Republicans pulled their county executive candidate out of a hat.

After months of searching, Jack Turk, aka Turk the Magic Genie, will be challenging incumbent Democrat Aaron Reardon in the November election.

“I’m certainly different. I’m definitely out of nowhere,” said Turk, 50, of Snohomish. “I’ll make my appearances fun.”

The county GOP desperately needed a candidate, and Turk said he is “stepping up to the plate.”

“I care about my county,” he said. “People should have a choice.”

Longtime Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart campaigned for two years as the Republican candidate, but dropped out in March. That left Reardon seemingly unopposed for a second term.

A month of secrecy shrouded Turk’s candidacy, but he finally stepped out from behind the curtain Wednesday night at the GOP convention, where he was unanimously anointed as the party’s candidate.

During a 15 minute speech, Turk told Republicans that he wasn’t afraid of the campaign, of Reardon or of losing. And he promised to run a very different kind of campaign and challenged Reardon to raise $100,000 for charity before the election.

Does he really want the job?

“Right now, I do. I do really want it,” he said.

County Republican party chairwoman Geri Modrell said she’s looking forward to the race.

“I’m excited about this prospect because he’s a new face,” she said.

Republicans are mustering their candidate almost as late in the game as possible. Filing week ends June 8.

“We’re starting late, and we don’t have money,” Modrell said. “The party will certainly be doing what it can to help. This man can change government in our county.”

Turk has never before sought public office. He said he’s spent most of his career as a technical writer, program manager and group manager at Microsoft.

He has worked on computer games and helped raise $3 million in venture capital for a children’s game company.

In November, he bought an online site that sells information to magicians and entertainers, and for marketing shows.

Turk is a bona fide magician who has performed for decades. His business card shows him in a genie turban along with his bird puppet, Doodle.

He still performs up to 20 shows a month, mostly for children.

But kids can’t vote.

“Nobody knows who I am,” he said. “It’s going to be an uphill battle.”

Between $200,000 and $500,000 is needed to run a campaign for county executive, Turk said.

“I don’t think money is the core determining factor in this race,” Turk said. “It’s who can connect with people’s dreams and emotions and what they care about on a daily basis.

“If I’m able to connect with the county, I might have a chance,” he said. “We’ll see.”

Turk plans to put together a team of advisers who can help him focus his campaign on the core needs of the county.

His campaign will be pointed at voters, not big money interest, Modrell said. “The dollar doesn’t vote,” she said.

Big money for the race has already been tied up by Reardon, who has a three-year head start. He’s raised $240,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. He has $183,000 in the bank.

So did Reardon expect to run against a magician?

“I’m sorry?” Reardon asked.

“Well, there you go,” he said.

Reardon said he doesn’t know any magic tricks and doesn’t plan on learning any as part of the campaign.

“It doesn’t matter who the opposition is. We’re going to run the same kind of campaign as we did from the start, running on my record and where the county’s headed.”

Reporter Jeff Switzer: 425-339-3452 or jswitzer@heraldnet.com.

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