Dunne’s attempt to unseat Duff inspired by deeply held conservative beliefs

Norwalk Planning Commissioner Bill Dunne.
Norwalk Planning Commissioner Bill Dunne.
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 4.
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 4.

This is one of a series of candidate profiles designed to tell voters something about the person rather than the politician. Previous stories have looked at candidates Fred Wilms (R-142nd) and Chris Perone (D-137th). In coming days, we will profile Andy Garfunkel (D-142nd), Gail Lavielle (R-143rd) and Keith Rodgerson (D-143rd). Sen. Bob Duff as not responded to request for an interview.

NORWALK, Conn. – Bill Dunne describes himself as a “pretty logical and practical” guy.

“I appreciate what works,” said the Republican challenger to incumbent State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25), in describing the origins of his political outlook.

Dunne said he is the only child of Irish immigrants and grew up in the Bronx, a few blocks away from the southwest corner of the Bronx Zoo and a few blocks south of Little Italy. He went to parochial schools and had a “normal” childhood, he said.

Hobbies? “Nothing stands out, I dabbled in this and that,” Dunne said. He did play a little bit of sandlot baseball but, “In the Bronx, you had to play handball. Which was great, I loved it,” he said.

His parents were Irish peasants, he said.

“They had impeccable timing – they arrived at the start of the Great Depression with nothing in their pockets. So my mother went to work as a domestic for a family out in Jersey. My father got into construction,” Dunne said.

About 12 years after coming to America, they met each other, got married and stayed married for the rest of their lives, he said.

Dunne earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Fordham University. It was while studying there, during the Vietnam War era, that he also earned the right to say on his campaign literature that he was in the United States Marines.

“I signed up under some quirky contract that they changed suddenly after I signed up,” said Dunne.

He spent six weeks in Quantico in officer candidate school, he said. One year later, he was supposed to go back for another six weeks but he had injured his back, he said. He was discharged and automatically placed in the reserves, meaning that he was on active duty for 30 days for each of the three summers he had left in college, he said.

“After I graduated from college I drifted into journalism,” Dunne said. “I enjoyed economics; it’s a grounding for understanding what makes the world goes ’round. It’s a very good discipline, but I drifted into journalism for some reason and after several years I ended up at Business Week magazine as an editor, copy editor, and a couple of years after that IBM found me there. I went to work for IBM in communications, doing a lot of corporate communications, dealing with global communications and things like that.”

Let’s backtrack. Dunne’s journalism career started in New Orleans from about 1970 to 1974, he said. He came up to New York after his father died to work at Business Week. In 1978, he went to McLean, Va., to work for an IBM satellite communications subsidiary, then joined “IBM proper” in Armonk, N.Y., in 1985, when the subsidiary closed.

His two children went to college in the Virginia area, one at William and Mary and the other at the University of Virginia, he said. Then IBM brought him north and he moved to Norwalk, he said.

Along the way he became a speechwriter. His boss at the satellite subsidiary came to him one day and said the speech he had written was rejected by the CEO. He asked Dunne if he could write one, and the career that eventually led Dunne to leave IBM in 1993 to start his own company was born.

Asked for the names of notable people he has written speeches for, Dunne cited Cleveland Clinic CEO Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, M.D., when Cosgrove was the chairman of the department of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery. He said he also wrote speeches for then-IBM chief John Fellows Akers and then-IBM CEO Louis Gerstner.

One speech was written to introduce a new computer to 2,000 people in Las Vegas. He thought of an Arthur C. Clarke quote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and wrote a magic trick into the speech – a tiger disappeared onstage, he said.

“Being in politics now I’m on the other side of the fence and discovering it’s a whole different thing. … I’m a good speech writer, but speech making is a tough thing to do,” Dunne said.

What gives Bill Dunne his conservative outlook?

“I had an interesting evolution politically,” Dunne said. “For no apparent reason except that I was bored one day, I picked up a copy of a paperback book. I was in high school. It was called ‘Conscience of a Conservative.’ I was instantly a conservative. Then in college I started drifting left a bit. I was sort of a middle of the road kind of guy for most of the ’70’s. By that time I was married and had kids, so then I watched the disaster known as the Carter Administration and started getting back to being more fiscally conservative.”

Dunne is on the Planning Commission. His appointment in September 2013 by then-Mayor Richard Moccia brought with it a level of controversy, as Dunne is known to dismiss the theory of climate change, and some Democrats protested someone with that opinion being given the role of a planner. A YouTube user with the name “al jabro” went so far as to make what some called an “attack video,” including clips of things Dunne said on his Facebook page, such as “Hitler finds out Obama ate his dog,” “$10,000 reward for Obama’s college transcripts,” and “Does Obama have a fraudulent social security number?”, all with links.

“I got a kick out of it,” Dunne said of the video. His appointment was eventually ratified by the Council with an 8 to 4 vote.

It’s widely believed that Councilman David Watts (D-District A) was connected to the video. It was released nine months after Dunne spoke at a Council meeting, sarcastically referring to Watts as a “Constitutional scholar.”

“Watts and I became friends after that,” Dunne said. “… He’s fine.”


5 responses to “Dunne’s attempt to unseat Duff inspired by deeply held conservative beliefs”

  1. Piberman

    Bill Dunne is a thoughtful deep student of public affairs and policy. He’s unusually well read and familiar with opposing views. It’s unusual to have an individual with these talents and interests interested in participating in the “political circus”. But if we’re ever going to make real progress resolving the long standing fiscal and economic problems facing CT his is the type of talent and knowledge that’s required. Not a partisan whose vote is owned by the Party as a matter of course. Bill would make an effective legislator precisely because he’s well informed and takes the time and effort to understand all sides of major issues. He’s the least doctrinaire individual one is likely to meet. He espouses conservative views generally on the basis that they offer an alternative to what is not working well in CT. He would bring measurable stature to the CT legislature and represent all Norwalk voters independent of is Governor.

  2. Oldtimer

    Nobody questions Bill Dunn’s skill with the language, putting words in somebody else’s mouth, supporting a point of view, not necessarily Dunn’s own. Not many can do that as well, but it makes it difficult to know who’s position Dunn is talking about at any given time.

    Does he have positions of his own ? Has framing the language for others gotten so ingrained he doesn’t know when he is doing it ?

  3. Ryan

    Anybody but Bob partyline Duff please?!!!!

  4. Nora King

    This is the man that worked with a council person to set up those nasty blogs on myself and John Igneri. Is this the type of man that should be up in Hartford? I don’t think so. A conservative and rational person doesn’t behave like Bill did. That is a bully not a conservative logical person.

  5. Ken

    Anything but the same face thats been smiling as he helps us go down the drain is a good thing. People need to start thinking beyond petty bickering. The Liberal Progressive Democrat majority, of which Duff is a poster child, has sat doing nothing but pushing their agenda as we steadily move ever downward in every way. Now is the time to let them know we realize WHO did this to us by holding them responsible in the voting booth. If there are bullies in politics in CT they are Democrats bullying their way through regardless of what it does to the taxpayers.

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