Former NFL player and Stanford football star Damon Dunn cast his first vote ever in May.
But in the world of politics, where up is down and down is up, the wealthy, 33-year-old Irvine businessman says his status as a recovering non-voter makes him uniquely qualified to serve as the head of California’s election system.
He officially entered the 2010 Republican primary race today for California Secretary of State.
“There is no excuse; there is no justification,” he told me this afternoon via telephone. “But I have an explanation.”
Dunn was born in Texas to a 16-year-old teen-aged mother who handed him over to two sets of grandparents to raise. His father died when he was 3 years old. He grew up dirt poor. And his family never voted, a trait he emulated throughout his adult life.
“I am uniquely qualified to reach non-voters, particularly in the demographic of people who don’t vote,” said Dunn, an owner of an Irvine-based real estate firm. “I can empathize with them. They feel their votes don’t count. When was the last time (incumbent Secretary of State Debra) Bowen was in Watts or South Los Angeles or any inner-city community?”
Dunn is tackling his voting record at the same time two other major Republican candidates, Meg Whitman and Carla Fiorina, running for governor and U.S. senate respectively, are trying to combat their spotty appearances at the polls.
But it’s a big leap from casting a vote to winning statewide office. He will need money and lots of it. Despite his personal wealth, Dunn ruled out a self-financed campaign and says he is approaching donors up and down the state.
Dunn, an articulate speaker and licensed Baptist minister, says he will use the Secretary of State’s pulpit as a place to advocate for job-friendly state policies. In addition to elections and state archives, the SOS oversees the registration of all businesses in California.
“The Secretary of State can go to the industries who are leaving this state, talk to the CEOs and find out which tax policies or regulations forced them out, then go back to the Legislature,” Dunn said.