Susan W. Turnbull hopes to be Maryland’s first Jewish lieutenant governor since Melvin A. “Mickey” Steinberg held the office from 1987 to 1995 during the Schaefer administration.
Turnbull is the running mate of Benjamin Jealous, the Democratic nominee for governor of Maryland.
The lieutenant governor nominee has served as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, and a senior advisor and grant consultant to several members of Congress.
She has also served as chair of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Jewish Women International, as well as a life member of the Jewish Social Service Agency of Metropolitan Washington. Turnbull has served on the national board of Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, and is an active board member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.
In addition, she co-founded Emerge Maryland, which recruits and trains women to run for public office, and is the owner of an interior space planning company.
Turnbull, 65, who has a master’s degree in urban studies from the University of Maryland, lives in Bethesda with her husband, Greg. They have two sons and three grandsons.
Jmore: Gov. Hogan’s approval rating stands around 70 percent, according to polls. Why should Marylanders vote for you and Ben Jealous?
Turnbull: But when asked if they would vote for him, [Hogan] has struggled to get 50 percent in any poll.
Our public schools have gone from first to sixth place in the nation. Health care costs have increased every year of his administration, and he has not addressed the opioid crisis. The Sick Leave Act was passed over his veto, and he has supported Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and [former] Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Edward Pruitt.
Ben and I have a lifetime of experience making government more acceptable and accountable to people. Ben was named “Marylander of the Year” [by the Baltimore Sun in 2013] because in this state he played a leadership role in the effort to repealed the death penalty, helped assure the passage of marriage equality and he co-chaired the effort to pass the DREAM Act. [The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would grant legal status to certain undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children who have attended school here.]
Ben has tremendous experience managing people. He was a CEO at age 26, and at age 35 he was named national president and CEO of the NAACP.
My experience in government goes back 40 years, starting with work in the Cincinnati City Council and then in the United States Senate, advising members of Congress on urban issues as well as federal grants and programs. For example, I worked with Vice President Joe Biden and a faith-based coalition to help pass the Violence Against Women Act. I’ve been a senior advisor to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D-N.Y.] and am working with Sen. Elizabeth Warren [D-Mass.], a friend for 20 years, and Congressman Joe Kennedy [D-Mass.].
I have been Democratic State Party chair, so I have good relations with Democratic officials in the state as well as people who are recently nominated.
How will you pay for the programs that you and Jealous are proposing?
One way is that we will stop mass incarceration, seeking to bring it down 30 percent. Ben has accomplished this working with others in Georgia and Texas. If we do that here, we’ll save $660 million a year.
The legalization of cannabis will help pay for early childhood education. We will also enhance the all-payer health care program with further negotiation, for example, on generic drugs.
What about public safety?
We’ll increase public safety. For example, we’ll introduce common sense reforms that reduce Maryland’s prison population. By creating gun courts, we will bring to trial quickly high-risk repeat offenders and by expanding violence-reducing programs such as Safe Streets and Roca. They currently receive inadequate funding.
We’ll also expand the Justice Reinvestment Act [which aims to reduce recidivism and decrease prison populations while maintaining public safety] and end cash bail so people are only held for trial if they are a threat to public safety.
How will your election as lieutenant governor benefit the Jewish community?
I’ve been active in Jewish communal programs since my high school membership in United Synagogue Youth. Tikkun Olam [repair the world] and justice have been themes of my life. I will work with Ben on civil rights and justice issues that will benefit everyone.
How have you influenced Jealous?
We are partners who look at problems from different perspectives. I am a mother and grandmother, so we are coming from different places. For example it’s important to me to keep seniors in their homes for as long as possible. My mother was a clerk in a department store and my father drove a cab. In their later years, my parents suffered extended illnesses. They had to deal with balancing issues of prescription drugs, other health care costs and additional expenses, as well as inadequate screening of cancer when my mother needed to go to a nursing home.
So I have worked with governors directly to help make government meet the needs of seniors. I know we can make government more responsible through governors. Not all progress is through the legislature. This story has really affected Ben.
How will you and Jealous get votes from moderate and conservative Democrats?
The same way we got votes in the primary election, where we carried all but two Maryland counties. We got support and engagement of Democrats from all walks of life and all political views.
We aren’t running left or right. We are responding to people’s concerns about education, health care, criminal justice reform, equality and economic issues.
Will you get votes from the Trump base?
No, we will not appeal to the Trump base, even though he has not made their lives better. But some people have joined our campaign because they are troubled by the divisive policies of Donald Trump that have been empowered by Larry Hogan.
What is the most important thing people should think about regarding the Jealous-Turnbull team?
Ben Jealous is bold, so Maryland will do big things again. We will end mass incarceration in ways that make our streets safer, fully fund our schools and help make colleges more affordable.
Peter Arnold is an Olney, Md.-based freelance writer.