Audrey Edmonsons run for a third term on the Miami-Dade Commission has been complicated by a young lawyer from a powerful political family who unexpectedly entered the race.
Keon Hardemon may lack political experience and likely wont win the Aug. 14 contest for the District 3 seat, but the street smarts of the family supporting him could well threaten an outright win by Edmonson, forcing her into a winner-take-all November general election runoff against Alison Austin, one of the candidates who is being supported by wealthy car dealer Norman Braman.
District 3 resident Frank Rollason compared Hardemons entering the race to a 2006 city of Miami contest in which two late entrants took a lot of votes and forced an unexpected runoff.
Its not the first time thats happened, said Rollason, one of that candidates in the 2006 Miami race. Hardemon seems like a nice kid. He doesnt have much experience, though.
Hardemon, 29, is a Northwestern Senior High School and University of Miami law school grad who has worked in the Miami-Dade public defenders office for the past two years. Hes also a member of one of Liberty Citys most powerful political families. His uncle Billy Hardemon and aunt Barbara Hardemon are long-time political operatives who are running his campaign. Uncle Roy Hardemon recently lost a race for a state House seat.
Keon Hardemon shrugs off speculation hes too young, pointing at former County Mayor Alex Penelas and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who first entered elected office as young men, as so-called boy wonders.
In response to emailed questions, Hardemon said hes running because Edmonson has failed us. He pointed to votes the commissioner made to privatize the Head Start program, which threatened the jobs of hundreds of teachers, many of them black. He also says Edmonson disrespected a store owner who was forced to move because a transit hub was being built near his property, and lambasts the commissioner for voting to build the Miami Marlins Little Havana ballpark.
Audrey Edmonson is out of touch with the needs of her constituents, her district, and the county, Hardemon wrote.
Edmonson points to her experience as a two-term commissioner, and says more affordable housing has been built in District 3 during her seven years in office than in any other district in the county.
During a contentious debate last week at Overtowns St. Agnes Episcopal Church, Hardemon defended Braman, who is supporting a slate of candidates to run against four incumbents, three of them black.
He may have undue influence in the city if all his people get elected, admitted Hardemon. But the one thing I can say about Norman Braman is that he was right. Our commissioners failed us when it came down to the Marlins stadium.
Edmonson said the stadium created jobs, though fewer than expected. If I had known then what I know today, maybe I would have voted differently, she said.
Braman is following through on a vow to try to remove politicians who voted for a property tax hike two years ago and who supported the Miami Marlins plan to build a ballpark in Little Havana. He is supporting challengers against county commissioners Edmonson, Barbara Jordan, Dennis Moss and Bruno Barreiro.