A member of a prominent Liberty City family, who lost a tough Miami-Dade Commission race last year, has jumped into the race for Miami’s District 5 seat just a week after an appeals court ruled incumbent Michelle Spence-Jones cannot run for a third term.
Keon Hardemon’s late entry into the race dims the chances of an outright victory for front-runner the Rev. Richard P. Dunn II.
Hardemon was born in Liberty City and is a graduate of Northwestern High, Florida A&M University and University of Miami law school. He has spent the past three years working for the Miami-Dade public defender’s office, and proved to be a feisty and formidable campaigner while losing to incumbent County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson last year.
City records show Hardemon qualified Wednesday and hasn’t yet raised any money.
A member of one of Liberty City’s most powerful political families, Hardemon could prove more than a bump in the road for Dunn, whose only opposition for the November election until now was political unknown Dr. Robert Malone Jr., who has raised $100.
Keon Hardemon’s uncle and aunt are Billy and Barbara Hardemon. The couple came to prominence through social activism after the 1980 McDuffie riots, helping late Commissioner Miller Dawkins and former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek catapult to office.
More recently the couple helped Spence-Jones raise money for her successful defense against state felony charges. Another of Keon’s uncles, Roy Hardemon, lost a race for the Florida House two years ago.
Hardemon said he has the support of Spence-Jones, who, though term-limited out, maintains a powerful presence in her district. The commissioner was out of town Thursday and could not be reached for comment.
“It’s only natural for her to support someone she knows in her heart is for the community,’’ he said.
He said the major issues facing the district are public safety, affordable housing and the city’s finances.
Spence-Jones’ intention was to run again in November, but Dunn successfully challenged that plan in court.
Dunn, who has lost several races for the District 5 seat over the years, filled the post twice after commissioners appointed him while the seat was vacated. He said he expected Hardemon to enter the race after the court ruled against Spence-Jones.
“I welcome anybody who wants to come. This is America. Nobody can match my experience,” he said.
Dunn has raised just more than $11,000, city records show.
In a statement, Malone said he “sincerely” welcomes Hardemon into the race and looks forward “to hearing his ideas and plan to address the many real and long-standing problems that exist in the neighborhoods of District 5.”
Miami’s District 5 is the largest geographically and most diverse in the city. It runs through the inner city from Overtown into Allapattah and Little Haiti and up into Liberty City. Thanks to redistricting, the winner of the November race also inherits a few wealthier neighborhoods in the city’s Upper Eastside, like Palm Grove and Shorecrest.