The easy part for political novice Keon Hardemon was parlaying his family name into a runoff against twice-elected incumbent Audrey Edmonson in Miami-Dade County’s District 3 commission race.
Stockpiling votes in his Liberty City stronghold where his family has politicked for three decades gave Hardemon enough of an edge in the six-candidate primary field to advance to the Nov. 6 runoff.
But now, with the field narrowed to two for the general election, Hardemon has been forced to stretch for votes outside his base, into neighborhoods like Wynwood, Buena Vista, Miami Shores and the Upper East Side. The lack of name recognition, and a huge fundraising edge enjoyed by Edmonson, leaves Hardemon facing an uphill battle heading into the final week of the election, some political observers say.
“He had enough juice to get into the runoff,’’ said pollster and Florida International University political science professor Dario Moreno, who has been tracking the race. But Edmonson “has too much money, too much organization. As we know, it’s very difficult to beat an incumbent.’’
Moreno said his findings have Edmonson, 59, with a comfortable lead in perhaps the county’s most diverse district of about 200,000, which runs from Overtown, up through Little Haiti, Allapattah, Wynwood, Brownsville and Liberty City, then hugs the coast from Miami Shores down through the Upper East Side and Edgewater.
Unlike the primary, which was filled with verbal volleys and often intense debate, the three-month runoff has been relatively quiet. There hasn’t been a single face-to-face encounter between the candidates, limiting the young challenger, 29, the opportunity to showcase the energy and debating prowess he exhibited in the earlier campaign.
It’s been more like a game of cat and mouse, according to Hardemon, with Edmonson ducking from at least one planned forum at a Liberty City church. Edmonson called it a “mix-up,” saying the forum was never on her schedule. The two are set to square off on WPLG Channel 10 political reporter Michael Putney’s news show Sunday morning.
Since they’ve kept their distance, little has changed since the primary campaign.
Hardemon has plastered the community with fliers highlighting an endorsement from family-friend and popular, if not controversial, Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. He says Edmonson failed the community in voting to build the Miami Marlins a new stadium, as well as supporting privatizing the federally-funded childcare program Head Start, which threatened the jobs of hundreds of mostly black teachers.
He touts a business acumen that would help reduce unemployment in the district, though he’s done little in the private sector since graduating from the University of Miami law school. Hardemon doesn’t believe Edmonson’s fundraising edge gives her an advantage.
“Absolutely not,” Hardemon responded by email. “Audrey Edmonson has poorly managed her campaign funds much like she did when she was handling our tax dollars. I have managed to create an effective campaign with much less resources than she has and I believe that people respect me for that.”
At a Thursday event in Wynwood, Hardemon said he chose not to spend money on polling, instead using the $25,230 he has raised during the general election on the campaign trail and on television ads coming out next week.