Trump’s silence after soldier’s death pushed Miami Democrat to run for Congress

Marvin Dunn, a historian of African-American Miami pictured in this 2011 file photo, is the eighth Democrat to run for Florida’s 27th congressional district.
Marvin Dunn, a historian of African-American Miami pictured in this 2011 file photo, is the eighth Democrat to run for Florida’s 27th congressional district. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Marvin Dunn, a former college psychology professor and longtime chronicler of Miami’s African-American history, is running for Congress as a Democrat, motivated by his growing anger at President Donald Trump.

“I don’t recognize this new America that Trump has created,” Dunn said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “I have the sense that we’re just an uncivil society now — that we’ve lost our moorings.”

He’d been toying with the idea of entering the race for Florida’s Democratic-leaning 27th district for a while, Dunn said, but his mind was made up after Trump was slow to address the deaths of four American soldiers, including the late Sgt. La David Johnson of Miami Gardens, killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger.

“When I saw what happened with those bodies, coming back from Niger, I thought, I was in the service for six years. Had I lost my life for my country, and had my life been ignored for two weeks before the president even spoke — that was the last straw.”

Dunn also referenced the prospect of Republican Roy Moore winning a special Senate election in Alabama next month despite a slew of sexual-misconduct allegations against him.

“When is a better time to send a psychologist to Washington than when they’re debating whether to seat a child molester in the Senate?” Dunn said. “I’m serious.”

Dunn, 77, retired from Florida International University in 2006. The author of “Black Miami in the Twentieth Century” and co-author of “The Miami Riot of 1980: Crossing the Bounds,” he was in the middle of writing a novel, he said, when Trump won the presidential election last year “and my whole life stopped, and I saw my country just slipping away.”

“I could not deal with the everyday internal turmoil over losing the country, as I see it, to these nationalists and Nazis and racists.”

He hasn’t discussed his candidacy with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is still interviewing potential campaign aides and figures he needs to raise at least $250,000 to be a viable candidate. Matt Haggman, leading fundraiser in the eight-candidate Democratic primary field, raked in about $512,000 in the three-month period that ended Sept. 30.

They’re vying to replace Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring.

Dunn ran for Congress once before: in 1989, for the seat Ros-Lehtinen ultimately ended up winning. He did not make the Democratic runoff in that race. In 1985, he also ran for Miami mayor and lost.

His platform will center on shoring up Social Security for future generations, said Dunn, who lives in Palmetto Bay and said he intends to appeal to Miami residents familiar with his trajectory as a mediator of racial tensions and an urban activist — and to seniors, like himself.

“We’re building more aircraft carriers,” said Dunn, a Navy veteran. “We’ve got to shift our priorities: We have to use our resources that grow our country in productive, healthy ways — and not just fear of war.”

“I’m for a strong defense,” he added. “I just don’t see how we’re going to be able to let these programs die.”