The Dynamic Duo

Their flocks have multiplied despite past controversy. But can the Revs. Victor Curry and Richard Dunn preach politics?

The assault on his good name began with a paid political advertisement that described Dunn as a "religious fundamentalist who STOLE MONEY from his church's DAY CARE FUND." The ad, as well as the distribution of the Herald's 1991 articles about Dunn's alleged misdeeds, was the handiwork of Wilson's political consultant, Bob Levy. It was also Levy who lobbied members of the Dade County Teacher's Union to rescind their endorsement of Dunn. In a batch of private letters, Levy described the pastor as "a plain bad guy."

"We didn't have the money to really adequately sell Frederica," Levy admits now. "So we had to tell people who Dunn was. We had to say, 'This is a guy who doesn't belong in public office.' When you're running on nuts and bolts, you use everything you got."

Another element of Wilson's strategy was to allege that Dunn was trying to confuse the electorate. At a press conference just a week before the October 1 election, she claimed that voters in white areas had confused Richard Dunn with Marvin Dunn, a Florida International University professor who has run for office before. Dunn countered by accusing Wilson of dirty campaigning. But the "Principal with Principles" A as Levy billed her A had crippled his momentum. She won the runoff by 7000 votes, a stunning reversal.

Wilson remains uncontrite about the tenor of her campaign. "This whole thing started when Dunn implied I was addicted to prescription drugs on a radio forum where we both appeared," she asserts. "From that point on, I was frankly afraid of the man. I never went anyplace he was going to be. I got threats on my answering machine. I was a nervous wreck."

Dunn likewise exhibits less-than-Christian forgiveness. "I had enough dirt on that woman to blow her to Washington, D.C., and never come back," he says, stabbing at a collard green. "People came to me and said, 'Here, you can use this!' I can't tell you I wasn't tempted. But that just isn't Christ-like."

Dunn blesses the waitress for bringing him a Sweet 'N Low and shovels another piece of cornbread into his mouth. "I had a lot of fun during that campaign," he announces without a trace of irony. "But it cost me something in the congregation. I've almost got to start over and reorientate people back to the vision. I've got to pastor now. Visit the sick. Clothe the nekkid. Spend time with the widows."

As of last week, however, Dunn said he was probably going to run for a seat on the Dade County Commission in District 3, one of three freshly drawn black districts that he and other minority activists fought to establish. "I got to pray it through and touch base with the people who can help me get elected," he says. "But I'm looking at numbers, and so far I like what I see. It's looking good. Very good." He has even gone so far as to open a campaign account.

If he does announce for the March 16 election, Dunn will be in familiar company. Victor Curry announced last week that he will run in District 2, which includes much of his Liberty City stomping grounds. The decision came as something of a jolt to black religious and political players, many of whom anticipated Curry would focus on building his popular church.

"I got to the point where I started listening to some friends, people I respect," Curry explains. "They said it was time to serve my community on another level. Actually, people have been asking me to run for a long time." He says one phone call in particular proved pivotal. At the bidding of mutual friends, newly elected U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings A a hero to both Dunn and Curry for his ability to overcome public infamy A called from Washington. His message was to the point: "Duty calls, buddy."

Duty may be the most apt word. Perched restlessly behind a desk in his rented Miami Shores office, Curry radiates a palpable disdain for the muck of papers that clog his chaotic schedule. He plainly regards press interviews as yet another drab mandate. "I don't want my community left out any more when the pie is being divided," he says, mouthing what has become a standard line.

With an impatience that borders contempt, he shrugs off concerns about a potential time crunch. "Ever since I've been preaching, that's been my label, that I'm spreading myself too thin. But I've only got one gear and that's go. If it ever gets to the point where it's more of a conflict to do my job here at New Birth than to do my job there, then I'll resign from there."

Curry's impatient eyes begin to drift. On the wall opposite him, he has mounted a shrine to Martin Luther King, Jr. "Our histories kind of parallel," he explains. "Not that I'm any Martin Luther King. But we both came to the pulpit young. He came out of an Ebenezer Baptist church. So did I. And my aunt and uncle are members of his church in Atlanta." Curry notes one other obvious similarity: Both he and King have been assailed as philanderers. What he leaves unstated is the bald fact that King never subjected himself to this sort of interview A because King never run for public office.

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