Damon Dunn: Republican for State Office Damon Dunn
Damon Dunn knows what it's like to be a rookie. He faced it when he started different stages of his last career--his first year playing football at Stanford and his first NFL game.
Now he faces it again in politics, campaigning as a Republican to be California's next Secretary of State despite having never run for public office or voted prior to Mayor of this year.
But what he lacks in experience, the 33-year-old makes up for it with years of community service and a passion to reach the six million eligible voters who haven't registered as the state's chief elections officer.
"I've grown to a point in my life where I feel I'm ready to serve on that level," Dunn said in an interview with the Sentinel.
After a brief five-game career in the NFL, followed by a stint in NFL Europe, he co-founded a successful real estate firm in Orange County that earned him millions. It was a far cry from his days growing up in Texas.
Born to a 16-year-old single mother, Dunn grew up in a trailer park in poverty. His father, Mike Lockett, was killed when he was three years old in an automobile accident and by 16, three of Dunn's friends were dead.
It didn't stop him from becoming an All-State running back in high school or earning a scholarship to Stanford, where set several records as a kick returner.
He was more than an athlete though. A member of the National Honor Society who graduated with a degree in public policy, his grades placed him on the Academic All-Pac 10 Team.
While a student-athlete, he served as an associate pastor at Jerusalem Baptist Church in Palo Alto, which earned him an article in JET magazine. He's currently an ordained Baptist minister who attends Saddleback Baptist Church.
Dunn also explained why he became a Republican, in a contrast to most registered Black voters. He went over the history of how most Blacks became Democrat after President Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy.
It was decisions based "not out of principle," he said, but "out of empathy" to a party that embraced them. But he believes the views of most Blacks are in line with Republican philosophy, especially in lieu of the debate over Proposition 8,
"There are a lot of African Americans that are conservative fiscally and socially as well, but we don't have the welcoming face in the Republican Party," Dunn said.
Besides his inexperience, he knows his biggest hurdle will be him not voting prior to this past May. He said there was no excuse or justification for that but explained that no one in his family had voted before.
"You didn't understand the importance of voting and I took those bad habits into my adulthood," he said.
It wasn't until someone he trusted pulled him aside and explained why voting was important. Now he feels that his background can help him reach many who were in his position.
"I can reach people where the highest density of non-voters are such as Watts and East Los Angeles," Dunn said.
His community work in Latino and African-American communities started in college when he was the Executive Director of the East Palo Alto Stanford Summer Academy.
That commitment to education has continued to this day where he volunteers in elementary schools in Santa Ana as part of the Latino Educatoinal Attainment (LEA) Initiative.
While he is considered a longshot, he's eager to not just make an impact in the race, but also help change the perception of Blacks in the Republican Party.
"I can be the guy in this party that bridges the gap and say I understand there's been a lack of empathy, compassion and connection but we have a message here about fiscal responsibility that we align on."