Jacqui Colyer and Robert Malone Jr. missed making the runoff for Miami’s District 5 commission seat Tuesday, but no two people in Miami are likely to receive more attention over the coming weeks.
That’s because the runoff between Keon Hardemon and Richard P. Dunn II on Nov. 19 is likely to be decided by many of the people who voted for the third-and fourth-place finishers, Colyer and Malone.
Though Hardemon didn’t receive the outright majority vote needed to avoid a runoff, the strength of his support was surprising. Despite his relative lack of political experience — his only previous run ended in a runoff loss to Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson last year — Hardemon more than doubled the vote total of Dunn, a seasoned politician and popular church leader who has held political office repeatedly over the past 25 years.
Observers credited Hardemon’s strong showing — he received more than 45 percent of the vote in a four-person field — to an early-voting and absentee-ballot campaign that gave him a large lead well before Tuesday’s voting started. Dunn, considered the frontrunner through the summer and well into the fall, was also hampered by questionable spending on campaign finance reports.
The senior pastor at Faith Community Baptist Church barely squeaked out a second place finish over Colyer, taking second place by just 44 votes. Yet with voter turnout so low — a total of 6,525 people voted in the race — the 44 votes were enough to leave Dunn more than half a percentage point ahead of Colyer, avoiding a recount.
Pollster and Florida International University political science professor Dario Moreno said it adds up to a precarious position for Dunn, who was a big favorite to replace Michelle Spence-Jones as the next commissioner for Miami’s District 5. To win on Nov. 19, Moreno said, Dunn must start negotiations with Colyer and Malone — the sooner the better.
“He outraised everyone and had endorsements, and just didn’t perform. He’s going to court Jacqui and Malone and try to win over their supporters,” said Moreno. “That’s what you do when you need people’s support.”
Colyer and Malone were keeping mum about their plans Wednesday. Colyer said she has “some big decisions to make,” and that she was meeting with staff and supporters to discuss a possible endorsement.
“We’re figuring out what the next steps are,” she said.
Malone’s campaign manager, Hector Roos, said both the Hardemon and Dunn campaigns had reached out to his candidate for support, but that Malone had yet to make up his mind. He, too, was meeting with staff and supporters to try and make a decision.
“We’re in the middle of discussing what our options are,” said Roos.
Overall turnout for the District 5 race was relatively weak. Only 16 percent of the district’s 40,513 registered voters went to the polls, and more than half of those voted early or through absentee ballots. Hardemon almost doubled Dunn’s totals in early and absentee ballots, and increased the percentage with those who voted Tuesday.
Hardemon didn’t return calls Wednesday. Dunn has refused to comment over the past three weeks, since reports surfaced about the timeliness and questionable expenses on his Oct. 4 campaign finance report.
The report showed an unusual amount of visits to restaurants, and 43 lump sum payments to seven women totaling more than $18,000 over the three month period ending in September. Two of the women say they were paid in cash and not near the 43 times reported. Dunn’s campaign manager, Gregory King, admitted to paying some workers in cash, which is against campaign finance laws. Additionally, the U.S. Postal Inspector in Miami said that according to a scan code on the envelope used to send the Oct. 4 report to the Miami city clerk’s office, it entered the mail system 18 days later than Dunn claimed.
Prior to Tuesday Dunn had refused to address any of the issues in his report, instead attacking the news stories that reported it.
On Election Day, he finally referred to them, though not in detail.
“Allegations are allegations,” he said. “Anybody can make them.”