The Miami Herald

Political committee causing stir in Miami-Dade District 3 race

A political committee that can accept unlimited campaign contributions is scrambling the fight for Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson’s District 3 seat.

As of the end of July, Better Leadership, an electioneering communications organization, or ECO, had collected $40,000 — including $20,000 from Common Sense Now, an ECO tied to County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Better Leadership is operated by Billy and Barbara Hardemon, the aunt and uncle of Keon Hardemon, a 29-year-old lawyer who is challenging Edmonson for her commission seat. The three Hardemons deny any ECO money is going toward the younger Hardemon’s campaign.

“I have absolutely no involvement in Better Leadership Now,” Keon Hardemon said in an email.

Edmonson said that before Keon Hardemon entered the race, she was approached by his aunt and uncle and offered the backing of the ECO, which she turned down.

“All you have to do is look at the ECO and know it’s related to Billy and Barbara, who are running his campaign,” said Edmonson.

As of the end of July, Barbara and Billy Hardemon’s firm, B&B Professional Consulting, had been paid just over $6,900 by Better Leadership for supplies, canvassing and consulting services. Another family member who is helping Keon Hardemon’s campaign, Jamila Hardemon, had been paid $3,000 for consulting work. Horace Oneal Derricks is listed as the chairman and treasurer of Better Leadership; he couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

As for the $20,000 from the Gimenez ECO, the mayor said he met with Billy and Barbara Hardemon, who offered campaign services in the black community. Gimenez agreed that the ECO would pay them. The mayor said he is not endorsing Keon Hardemon and was unaware of any connection to him through the ECO.

“Yes, I am a consultant for the mayor,” said Barbara Hardemon, who added that the ECO is not helping her nephew’s campaign.

An ECO is a political committee that can accept unlimited funds that can be used for just about any political purpose other than to explicitly endorse a candidate.

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