Friday, December 9, 2022

AR HD-75: Seriously, Who is Heather Beech Turchi?

Lying about degrees, pretending to support public schools, and other things that aren't a good look for a candidate.

If you were around these parts over the past week or two, you probably already read the post about Heather Beech Turchi, Republican candidate for House District 75 in west Little Rock.1 After finishing that post, it is in entirely possible that you had a thought along the lines of, “Ok, I see that she’s a lunatic, but what’s her actual story, where is she from, etc.?”

Well, hypothetical person functioning as a literary device, I am glad you asked, mainly because that is exactly what we planned to write about today. Just who is Heather Beech Turchi? More to the point, what do we actually know about her beyond her social-media rantings and TikTok ban?

And, perhaps more importantly, how does what we know about her background square with what we know about who she currently pretends to be?

Heather Turchi Lies About Her Own Education

A couple of weeks ago, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette took a look at Heather Turchi’s race against incumbent Ashley Hudson. In that article, the author noted, “Originally from Benton, Turchi moved to Little Rock to attend the University of Arkansas at Little Rock where she received a bachelor’s degree.”

Impressively, that single sentence contains two separate lies: Turchi did not move to Little Rock to attend UALR, and she absolutely did not receive a bachelor’s degree from UALR or anywhere else.

Heather Renee Beech was born May 1, 1984, and she attended school in Benton through her high school graduation. In her junior year of high school, she was voted Class Favorite and was noted for her “great big smile.” Her senior year, 2001-2002, was a busy time, as she was a flautist in the marching band,2 was in choir, dressed up like one of the Aristocats at some point, and (in about the most ironic twist I can imagine, given how little she knows about science) was treasurer of the science club. She was voted “Most Likely to Be Remembered” in her senior yearbook, and she graduated from Harmony Grove (Benton) High School in 2002.

Following high school, her initial plan was to attend the University of Arkansas–Little Rock to study nursing, which you can see from her college application.

How she did her freshman year of college is not known, but she submitted a request to withdraw from the 2003 summer semester at UALR on June 3, 2003. A records request to UALR confirmed that Beech was enrolled in classes in the fall of 2003 and spring of 2004, before withdrawing from the spring 2004 semester on March 20, 2004. She enrolled in classes in summer 2005, and then withdrew from those summer classes on May 24, 2005. She then enrolled in classes for the fall 2005 semester, before withdrawing from those classes in December 2005. In absolutely every one of these withdrawals, her address is 824 Turtle Creek Dr., Benton, AR (Saline County).

According to a request that Beech made for her UALR transcript to be sent to Pellissippi State Technical Community College, at some point prior to April 10, 2007, Beech moved to 930 Glendower Way in Knoxville, TN. Based on a subsequent request for her UALR transcript, by December 9, 2008, Beech was back in Arkansas and residing at 1070 Charing Cross Circle in Mabelvale (Saline County).

From December 2008 until just a few years ago, there is a gap in her educational background. We know, however, that Beech (now Turchi) attended Pulaski Technical Community College “from Spring 2019 until Spring 2020,” during which period that school considered her a sophomore. This is the first set of educational records that show Turchi with a Little Rock address. More recently (and bringing us more or less current) according to UALR, she also enrolled in classes in summer 2021 and fall 2021, but withdrew from the fall semester on September 6, 2021.3

So, no, Heather Turchi did not move to Little Rock to attend UALR, and she certainly did not receive a bachelor’s degree from UALR (or anywhere else). What a weird and easily disprovable thing for a candidate to lie about.

Heather Turchi Avoids Little Rock Schools (Except For Self-Promotion)

Looking at her educational history, going all the way back to elementary school, that is all or part of at least 19 years at a public elementary school, high school, community college, or university. With that kind of extensive background in public-school education, you might expect that Turchi would be a proponent and supporter of public education in Arkansas.

After all, that is certainly the vibe that she attempts to give off with posts like this one:

Any assumption that Turchi actually supports public schools, however, would be mistaken.

First, Turchi has no children that attend Joe T. Robinson High School. So this is odd enough on the surface. But second, and much more to the point, Turchi’s sons do not attend any school in the Pulaski County Special School District.

They also do not attend any school in the Little Rock School District.

Nor do they attend any private school in Little Rock or Pulaski County.

Rather, Turchi drives her two sons to Saline Co. for school every day so that they can attend Arkansas Christian Academy in Bryant. The reason? Because Turchi believes that even the religious schools in Little Rock–including Catholic schools, such as the one at Holy Souls where she is a member–are “too liberal” in their education of children.

And, to be fair, I suppose that places like Little Rock Christian Academy, Baptist Prep, and Central Arkansas Christian are too liberal…for someone who happily sends her children to a place that describes its curriculum thusly:

This is the person that the Democrat-Gazette called “a non-ideological Republican”?!

Based on all of this, a person would be forgiven if he or she thought that Turchi’s donation of “formal dresses” in the Facebook post above was little more than a disingenuous photo-op. After all, raving about “our Joe T. Robinson Senators!” when you won’t even send your kids to school in Pulaski County at all is certainly not the most honest approach someone can take. And even the charitable point to her post–donation of “formal dresses”–is undermined by showing off the dresses, so that any teen who wears one runs the risk of being embarrassed by someone pointing out that it was a donated dress.

Maybe Arkansas Christian Academy hasn’t gotten to Matthew 6:1-4 yet.

Heather Turchi Has No Use For Election Laws

Before she landed on “small-business owner” as her claimed vocation, Heather Turchi made the rounds of conservative talk radio and YouTube while describing herself as a “constitutional activist.” Such a description might make someone think that Turchi has a strong layman’s understanding of things like “election laws” and “campaign-finance laws.”

If you fall into that category of people, please allow me to disabuse you of that notion.

As Heather describes it, on July 21, 2022, she “hosted a fundraiser on July 21 at the ASU System offices in Little Rock.” “ASU System offices” refers to the main offices for the Arkansas State University System, located at 501 Woodlane St., Little Rock, AR. This fundraiser was from noon to 1pm on a Thursday.

If you are wondering why a campaign fundraiser was held during normal business hours in ASU’s publicly funded offices, you and I are on the same page. According to her July 2022 campaign-finance report, Turchi paid $100 to use those rooms for her event.

Except…Arkansas Code Annotated 7-1-103(a)(2)(A)(i) says: 

It shall be unlawful for any public servant, as defined in § 21-8-402, to devote any time or labor during usual office hours toward the campaign of any other candidate for office or for the nomination to any office

Certainly, there were folks from the ASU system working in these offices on a Thursday in July. Are we to believe that no one–not a single person–from ASU took any part whatsoever in that fundraiser? No one greeted attendees or directed them where to go? Nobody stopped and talked to any of the attendees? Not one person checked on the fundraiser in any way while it was going on?

Riiiight.

Besides, even if we pretend like no one in the ASU offices dedicated a second of time to the campaign-related activities, Arkansas Code Annotated 7-1-103(a)(3)(A) says:

It shall be unlawful for any public servant, as defined in § 21-8-402, to use any office or room furnished at public expense to distribute any letters, circulars, or other campaign materials unless such office or room is regularly used by members of the public for such purposes without regard to political affiliation.

The mere fact that Turchi paid $100 to use the office does not change this. Unless the rooms used for the fundraiser were “regularly used by members of the public for such purposes without regard to political affiliation,” any use of those rooms for Turchi’s campaign communications–even if she paid to use the room–was prohibited.

Those potential legal hurdles, while caused by Turchi’s own ignorance of the law, ultimately land on some other person or persons. But that fundraiser is not the only example of Turchi’s lack of knowledge of (and/or lack of use for) election laws. Under Arkansas Code Annotated 7-6-228(c)(1):

Campaign signs, campaign literature, and other printed campaign materials under this section shall clearly contain the words “Paid for by” followed by the name of the candidate, committee, or person who paid for the campaign sign, campaign literature, or other printed campaign materials.

Now see if you can find the required “paid for” disclaimers on these mailers from Turchi’s campaign:

You can’t find them, of course, because the mailers don’t have the statutorily required language. Under Arkansas Code Annotated 7-6-202, the knowing failure to include that language on campaign materials is a class-A misdemeanor, which is interesting in part because, if you look at the fundraiser invitation above, it does have the required language. So Turchi is clearly aware of what the law requires.

She just…chose to ignore it for these mailers, I guess?

Heather Turchi’s Voter History Paints A Disinterested Picture

According to court records,4 Heather Beech married Adam VanVeelen on November 25, 2006. She registered to vote in Saline County at some point under the name Heather Renee VanVeelen, and she voted in the November 2008 general election.

Oddly enough, despite marrying VanVeelen in 2006 and living with him at 1815 Rock Creek Dr. in Benton, according to her divorce filing, from November 2006 until March 2010, the address on Turchi’s voter registration in 2008 was 824 Turtle Creek Dr. in Benton, her parents’ house.

When she and Mr. VanVeelen divorced on August 25, 2010, the divorce decree specifically stated that her name would be restored to Heather Beech.

Nevertheless, Turchi did not change her voter registration to reflect her correct, legal name. This would have become a much bigger oversight, were it not for the fact that Heather Turchi did not vote in any elections between November 2008 and November 2016:

Indeed, Turchi married her current husband on September 25, 2013, but it was not until August 23, 2016 that she got around to changing both her name on her registration (from Heather Renee VanVeelen to Heather Renee Turchi) and her address (from 824 Turtle Creek Dr., Benton, AR to 12704 Timber Bend Dr. in Little Rock). She also changed her party affiliation on August 23, 2016, from “Other” to “Libertarian.”

It was not until September 20, 2021–just over a year ago–that Turchi changed her voter registration from Libertarian to Republican.

Somewhat humorously, in the replies to a Facebook post where Turchi was complaining about special elections for taxes and millage, someone commented that “school elections and special tax are hidden elections,” to which Turchi replied “100!”

I can only assume that is that why Turchi never voted in a single special election before 2021. They were so “hidden” that she was unaware of them.

Conclusion

Heather Beech Turchi is anything but the level-headed, forthright candidate that she (and the Democrat-Gazette article) presents to the public. She’s willing to lie about her academic background, despite there being public records that easily disprove her claims. She paints herself as someone who has some amount of interest and love for schools in Pulaski County, while actually believing that the schools in Little Rock are too liberal and sending her kids to an unaccredited hyper-religious school in Saline County. She complains constantly about “Democrats” and “Biden” doing things that Turchi deems illegal, but she can’t be bothered to comply with something as basic as rules for disclosures on campaign mail. And she holds herself out as someone who has been deeply engaged in politics for years, despite voting only four total times in her life before 2020.

Dishonesty from a politician is nothing new, even when it is easily disprovable and objectively stupid stuff that is being lied about. But not being surprised by a candidate’s dishonesty does not mean that we should ignore the lies when presented with them. Turchi might not think that it matters if she tells the truth, but ultimately that determination is not hers to make. It is a question for the voters in District 75 to answer.

***

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  1. If you weren’t around these parts yesterday, you should read that post first, but also, welcome aboard!

  2. Not gonna lie, I really want her opinion on Lizzo’s playing James Madison’s crystal flute.

  3. A withdrawal slip for that one is unavailable because UALR stopped using paper withdrawal slips some time between 2005 and 2021.

  4. Saline County Case No. 63DR-2010-391

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