John McCain, Anne Turk and Craig Turk courtesy Craig Turk
When it comes to showbiz connections in the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. Barack Obama has Oprah Winfrey, Gov. Mike Huckabee has Chuck Norris, and Sen. John McCain has... Craig Turk?
It's a name familiar only to viewers who've studied the credits of
Law & Order
, where Turk has written episodes. But he's also had key behind-the-scenes roles in McCain's presidential bids.
Back in 1999, Turk was a Harvard-trained lawyer working in Washington, D.C., specializing in election law and government ethics when McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, approached him about doing legal work for the candidate. Turk was hired as general counsel for the 2000 campaign and began riding McCain's Straight Talk Express bus.
The experience got Turk deeper into politics. He went to Montenegro to work on a sovereignty referendum for the European nation and consulted for developing political parties in Asia and Eastern Europe. "I loved the travel and the sense that I was making a difference," he says. "Coming to Hollywood is not something I ever considered much."
Turk was itching to put his experiences into a story and wrote a script called
. "It was about a young lawyer in D.C. who winds up getting into a series of events that put him in over his head," Turk says. A screenwriter pal from law school passed it on to an agent. Turk tried his hand at a
Law & Order
episode. It sold and he went on to a job at
, where he wrote an episode inspired by McCain's POW experiences in Vietnam. Turk put his law background to use at
in 2006, where he's currently a writer-producer. It's turned out to be a good fit with his background. "At
, you're always dealing with political and social issues that are really timely," Turk says. "It's a great forum if you're interested in debate."
But there was no work in early November, when the Writers Guild of America went on strike. That's when McCain's campaign, at the time way down in the polls, asked Turk to travel with the candidate for a while. "Initially my role was to make him laugh," Turk says. "He was constantly amused by me telling him that before I joined the campaign I had spent time walking in circles with a picket sign in my hand." Turk advised McCain on campaign issues, but during downtime, they'd talk about TV. "He has young kids, so he's surprisingly fluent in pop culture," Turk says. "When I told him there was going to be a long strike, he said, 'Oh, what does that mean for
?' He's a very hip guy."
Turk is back at work for
while McCain appears headed for the Republican nomination. Turk plans to be involved in the general election campaign this fall. "The TV season allowing, I'll be back on the road," he says. "I have tremendous respect and affection for John McCain, and I feel like he'd be an incredible president."