Damon Dunn
Damon Dunn

LONG BEACH - Damon Dunn, a real estate investor and former NFL player turned mayoral candidate, got off to a dubious start when addressing the Republican Long Beach Lincoln Club on Thursday.

He told the gathered audience at the Long Beach Yacht Club that he was no longer one of them.

The 36-year-old Dunn, a Republican who ran for Secretary of State in 2010, said he recently changed his party affiliation to decline-to-state after being in the GOP for three years, and before that, a Democrat for seven years.

Many prospective voters in Long Beach will tune out if they hear a candidate is Republican, said Dunn, even in nonpartisan city races.

"My message is getting clouded by things I don't necessarily believe in," Dunn said.

The admission aside, Dunn, who announced his bid last Wednesday, seemed to impress the crowd during a roughly 30-minute speech.

Dunn recounted his remarkable story - born into poverty in Texas, he lived in a trailer on a farm for 12 years with 10 others. It was a time, he said, when he had two pairs of jeans, one for school and one for work feeding "slop" to farm animals.

A high school honor student, Dunn was a first-team Academic All Pac-10 and first-team All Pac-10 wide receiver at Stanford. After college, he played in the NFL from 1998-2001, including stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the New York Jets, the Cleveland Browns and the Dallas Cowboys.

Dunn said part of the reason he is running is because he sees Long Beach as a city without a dream.


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"We've drifted from issue to issue and policy to policy," said Dunn.

Dunn's vision of being mayor is hands-on, with the candidate promising to use his business experience to act as a "chief economic officer" in direct talks with prospective ventures to help increase the city's coffers by expanding the property, sales and business tax bases.

He also intends to raise money for school districts to help students who may not go to college to transition directly into the workforce through internships and other programs.

"Everyone's not going to go get a bachelor's," Dunn said. "Some people may put their hand on a wrench."

Dunn is against Long Beach's recent closure of a fire engine and a move toward a realigned paramedic system that officials say will decrease response times while saving money.

"These guys are putting their lives on the line and we cannot give them inferior resources and deployment schedules, particularly when they're putting their lives on the line," said Dunn.

Dunn also confronted a question that he will surely face through next year's spring elections.

Why should Long Beach voters choose someone to be mayor who has only lived in the city for two years?

Dunn started by saying it's his second time living in Long Beach. He first was a resident in 2000, when he played for the Los Angeles Xtreme in the XFL.

He also created a parallel with his time at Stanford.

The Stanford community is strong, said Dunn, because from year-to-year it welcomes talented people from all over the world.

"If Long Beach is going to match and reach its potential, that's going to be something we have to embrace," said Dunn.

"If this is going to be a race about how long you've lived here, I'm not going to win that."

After the event, Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Gordon, called Dunn a "very strong candidate."

"I personally like Damon," said Gordon.

He called Dunn's confident admission that he is no longer a Republican "refreshing," and predicted that voters are sophisticated enough to look past political labels.

"It is a nonpartisan race, after all," Gordon said.

eric.bradley@presstelegram.com, 562-714-2104, twitter.com/EricBradleyPT