Advertising himself as a political independent, Long Beach mayoral candidate Damon Dunn raised eyebrows this past Tuesday when he held a campaign fundraiser in an upscale northern California enclave that was headlined by former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice.
Dunn says that Menlo Park--just outside of Palo Alto in Northern California--was chosen due to Rice's conflicting schedule and the inability to pay for a private jet to bring her to Long Beach. Though a seemingly odd location, local mayoral and congressional candidates often hold fundraisers outside of their home base.
More interestingly, however, is that Dunn has been both a registered Democrat and a registered Republican--the party under which he ran unsuccessfully for California Secretary of State in 2010--and has recently positioned himself as an independent while he begins to separate himself from his former GOP party in his run for Long Beach mayor. He moved to the city just recently in 2011, raising even more questions about whether someone so new can run the city or not.
"In regard to leaving the GOP," Dunn told the Post, "I wanted to stand as my own man, on my own ideas. I'm not influenced by any party and I'm not influenced by any person. Win or lose, I will stand on my own ideas and as my own man."
Still, the appearance by Rice is questionable, particularly given her role as a key player in the development of the neo-conservative political philosophy that arose during her tenure as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under the second Bush Administration.
Noting he doesn't "see party affiliations when I ask people to help," Dunn explained that party platform stances don't matter for fundraising efforts, especially when Rice "has a lot of credibility" and would "guarantee a good turn out."
"In regard to what Condi studies or advocates," Dunn said, "that's her business. She's a friend. She does not influence my thoughts on governing... She's a friend and I asked her to host this event and she agreed."
In its reporting on this week's fundraiser, the Sacramento Bee stated that Dunn repeatedly touted himself as "truly conservative" during his 2010 secretary of state campaign, during which he amassed a long list of GOP endorsements.
Dunn seemed confused by the quote.
"I'm not sure what context the writer sourced the 'truly conservative' comment. [The author] said I was quoted saying that in ; that's over [four] years ago. I don't recall any conversation I've had where that came up," he said.
Author Torey Van Oot confirmed that the quote came from a November 2009 article published on the front page of the Bee itself. The article, archived via LexusNexus, opened with:
This Thanksgiving, Dunn, 33, is crisscrossing the state while billing himself as a 'truly conservative' candidate for secretary of state, California's top elections officer. Even Dunn, who speaks his mind at a galloping clip, admits he's at a loss to explain the quick transformation...
He's already received advice from GOP heavyweights such as George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove and former Gov. Pete Wilson and is hitting the conservative airwaves.
Meanwhile, the Orange County resident says he cast his first vote in May, against state budget ballot measures, after registering in California as a Republican.
Dunn's current stance seems to ignore the GOP connections he built while running for secretary of state, but matches his recent attempts to detach himself from the party stigma.
During his campaign for secretary of state, he expressed an entirely different ideal on conservative radio host Eric Hogue's talkshow. The program, entitled "Is He the Future?" was also noted in the 2009 Bee article. The show's first on-air caller, a self-described "GOP grassroots volunteer," was perplexed by Dunn's run: "I don't know who you are. I've never heard of you... Why Secretary of State?"
According to the story, Dunn replied to the caller "touting his conservative credentials, including his support for free-market policies and his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage."
Dunn repeated twice to the Post his decision to "stand as my own man and run on my own ideas, without influence from political parties"--despite this history of being seemingly consumed by GOP ideologies in 2009-10 and a shoddy voting record (his first vote ever was cast in May of 2009 just before his decision to run for SOS). One can only hope that his sentiment is genuine as he continues his mayoral campaign here in Long Beach.
"I have close friends that are Democrats and close friends that are Republican...I have friends from all perspectives. My mom is a Democrat. I've been both a Democrat and a Republican; I've seen the best of both parties," Dunn said. "I've decided to stand as my own man and run on my own ideas, without influence from political parties."