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Former Capitol Hill police officer announces run for Congress near Jan. 6 anniversary

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Three years ago, Harry Dunn was an officer defending the Capitol from violent insurrectionists. As he later told the House January 6 committee, the riot and the racist attacks he endured left him in shock.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRY DUNN: I became very emotional and began yelling, how the blank could something like this happen? Is this America? I began sobbing. Officers came over to console me.

SHAPIRO: Now the former U.S. Capitol Police officer has announced he wants to return to the Capitol as a congressman. He is running as a Democrat for a seat in his home state of Maryland. And Harry Dunn is with us now. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

DUNN: Hey. Thanks for having me on.

SHAPIRO: You made this announcement of your campaign close to the third anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, and I imagine that was deliberate. What does that day represent to you now?

DUNN: If January 6 didn't happen, maybe you and I aren't having this conversation right now. However, it did. And I've never been a stranger to public service. I've been a public servant the last 15-plus years of my life. You know, maybe I would have considered Congress after the end of my full career - a full, you know, 25-year-plus career. But January 6 did happen, and it's spring-boarded me to this moment right now.

SHAPIRO: What was it about January 6 that made you say, you know what? Maybe I would have run for office a decade from now, but I have to do it today.

DUNN: Yeah, because, like, I don't think that it's an exaggeration to say that we're one election away from, you know, the extinction of democracy as we know it. I don't have the luxury of waiting to see if I can retire and then maybe consider running for Congress. There's a clear and present threat right now to our democracy, and I believe it's worth fighting for.

SHAPIRO: You say you're running to defend democracy. The recently elected House speaker, Mike Johnson, said just yesterday on CBS's "Face The Nation" that the 2020 election violated the Constitution. So how can a single congressman in a body run by many Republicans who still discredit or fought to overturn the election do that job of defending democracy?

DUNN: What I've been doing since January 6, I've been doing as a public citizen, just somebody who is refusing to be quiet and letting people in the body of Congress perpetuate the lies and whitewashing and downplaying what happened that day. And I've been doing that just as an American citizen. But now, as a congressman, I believe that gives me a seat at the table with a little more credibility, so to speak. And I can't be dismissed as just some angry, you know, American partisan guy. I will actually be their colleague, their equal, and they'll have to face me. And through legislation, through debates, I will have a seat at that table. And that's what I'm looking forward to having.

SHAPIRO: You're clearly passionate about this issue. What would you say to people who would describe you as a one-issue candidate? Is that accurate?

DUNN: That's far from accurate. I align with a lot of the Democratic principles and values that the Democratic Party talks about - common sense gun reform, the woman's right to choose, voting rights. I agree with all of those issues, and I'm very passionate about that. However, I think that those issues fall under the umbrella of democracy. And if democracy falls, then I think those issues kind of go out the window because, you know, President Trump, in his own words, has said he wants to be a dictator for a day. So when that day - does that day into a week, a year, four years, the rest of his life? And then what does he do with that power that he will ultimately have?

SHAPIRO: Now, you're running in what is considered a safe Democratic district in a crowded primary field with a retiring incumbent. Many of the candidates who are running against you in the primary are Maryland state senators or delegates who already have legislative experience. Why do you think voters should choose you over somebody who has already worked in this space?

DUNN: I completely appreciate all the work that those candidates have done. And, you know, we're all on the same side. We all want to preserve democracy. However, it would be a learning curve for them, too. None of them have been representatives in the United States House of Representatives. I also have been a public servant the last 15-plus years of my life. So I'm not a career politician. I'm a career public servant, and I think that's what it takes. My job is to listen to the people and to give them a voice on the floors of Congress, in the halls of Congress. That is my job, and I think that my experience as a law enforcement officer has given me the ability to be able to do that effectively.

SHAPIRO: Former U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, now running as a Democrat to represent Maryland in Congress, thank you for your time.

DUNN: Thank you for taking the time. I appreciate you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Gabriel J. Sánchez
Gabriel J. Sánchez is a producer for NPR's All Things Considered. Sánchez identifies stories, books guests, and produces what you hear on air. Sánchez also directs All Things Considered on Saturdays and Sundays.
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.