He’s an astrophysicist who worked for both NASA and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
He served two terms on the Hayward City Council and six years as PTA president.
Now, scientist and community leader Democrat Bill Quirk wants to represent District 20 in the California State Assembly, comprising the communities of Ashland, Castro Valley, Cherryland, northern Fremont, Hayward, San Lorenzo, Sunol and Union City.
“It’s very clear when you talk to Bill about any policy issue that he just has a really strong mastery of detail,” said Mark Goodwin, Quirk’s campaign manager. “He really weighs things on facts and not on political allegiance, and that is going to be a valuable thing in Sacramento.”
Quirk is set to face fellow Democrat Dr. Jennifer Ong in the Nov. 7 election, after receiving 30.3 percent of the vote in the primary elections last June. Ong came in second with 25.7 percent.
A man of science and facts, Quirk prides himself on his practicality and willingness to compromise, which he says was shaped by a difficult upbringing where he was forced to take on extra responsibilities from an early age.
“All I knew was my father was very angry, spent very little time at home, was an alcoholic and a smoker,” Quirk told The Pioneer, adding his father probably suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. “And, as the oldest I was the one who was relied upon.
“That same willingness, desire to take on responsibility, has driven me all my life,” said Quirk.
The industrious young Quirk became an eagle scout, earned a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Columbia University at age 24, took a climate research position for NASA and eventually settled into a position at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, studying nuclear programs in foreign countries.
While at the national laboratory, Quirk showed the plutonium parts in nuclear weapons could be recycled, eliminating the need for the ominous Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant near Denver, Colo.
“We saved billions of dollars and removed a danger to the people of Denver,” said Quirk. “So, that’s something I’m very proud of. Everybody said it was something that couldn’t be done and I just went out and did it.”
As an expert in atmospheric science and nuclear testing, he also worked on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear explosions across the world. Quirk says the participating countries disagreed on what level of nuclear explosions were to be allowed; it was his job to find an acceptable compromise.
“What I did was come up with alternatives that I felt could help break the deadlock, so that we would give up our position on how low it would be,” said Quirk. “What was chosen was zero. That, everybody understood.”
It is this history of scientific innovation and working towards compromise that Quirk uses to define his strengths as a legislator.
The astrophysicist began his political career in the Hayward PTA, serving as president from 1992 to 1998. Quirk says he always wanted to get into politics but waited until his youngest child was a senior in high school.
“The most important thing I’ve done in my life is raise two great kids, and it was my first priority,” said Quirk. “That and my relationship with my wife, because I did come from a family that had problems.”
Quirk won a seat on the Hayward City Council in 2004, and was re-elected in 2008. While on the council, the scientist worked towards revitalizing downtown Hayward, adopted a climate action plan, and focused on the cleanliness and public safety of the community.
“On an issue like medical marijuana which, I’m in favor of, that’s something where I educated the council on the research that really does show it is helpful,” said Quirk. “The choice is very strong narcotics or marijuana. I mean, come on folks this is a no brainer.”
If elected to the Assembly, Quirk says he will work to improve energy efficiency and conservation in the state by giving incentives to companies who create new and innovative ways to store energy created by solar and wind power.
“Solar energy is good, but it peaks at 2:00 p.m., and demand peaks at 6:00 p.m., and there is no wind on the highest energy days of the year,” said Quirk.
“It means you have to keep every one of our fossil fuel plants including the old inefficient polluting ones up and running to take care of the demand between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on very hot days. We really need to solve this storage problem to keep energy cheap.”
According to Quirk, improving California’s energy grid is an important issue to tackle because, “If California energy is much more expensive than energy in the rest of the country, we lose jobs.”
“It would be my job to educate people in the assembly — democrats and republicans—that this is something we need to do,” said Quirk. “And that’s the sort of thing I did on the City Council with medical marijuana, or in other issues like our own budget.”
An August poll conducted by Godbe Research, paid for by the Quirk campaign, showed the former Hayward councilmember has a slight lead in the race, with 24.7 percent to Jennifer Ong’s 20 percent. Fifty percent were undecided.
Another poll, conducted in September by Global Strategy Group at the behest of Ong supporters, placed Ong ahead in the polls with 21 percent and Quirk with 18 percent.
“I think it’s very clear her poll wasn’t scientific,” said Quirk’s campaign Manager, Mark Goodwin. “She had a poll she did during the primary that showed her winning by double digit margins then, obviously that didn’t happen. When you’re doing a poll there are a lot of ways to skin a cat.”
Goodwin claimed Ong lacks experience as legislator and alleged she “actually missed voting in five elections [...] since she moved to the Hayward area.”
Goodwin also alleged Quirk’s opponent is using a second home in Lincoln California as her primary residence in order to evade taxes.
“That’s a $7,000 property tax exemption and she’s been doing that from 2006 up to this year,” said Goodwin. “It’s just ironic to me that she’s out that talking about how the solution to our budget woes is collecting uncollected taxes and meanwhile she has uncollected taxes that she hasn’t paid over the last six years.” Ong told The Pioneer she and her brother bought that house for their parents to retire in.
Quirk said his opponent’s primary support comes from the optometry and medical industry groups, who have taken a stand against him because of his position on protecting patient’s rights in regards to liability lawsuits.
“And I’m willing to take that,” said Quirk. “If I had not taken that, I would have a lot fewer problems right now winning this election. But I was willing to take a stand, that’s me.”
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, October 25th, 2012 at 2:23 pm.