The Rev. Richard P. Dunn II, who slipped into an unexpected second place this week in the race for a Miami City Commission seat, welcomed the support Thursday of a key former rival.
Jacqui Colyer, the third-place finisher in Tuesday’s election, endorsed Dunn in the Nov. 19 runoff against Keon Hardemon.
“I’ve got my running sneakers out, and we are ready to move,” Colyer told a couple of reporters and about a dozen seniors gathered Thursday morning outside the Carrie P. Meek Senior and Cultural Center in Liberty City.
She said she plans to take an active role in Dunn’s campaign, where she sees “space” for her opinions to be heard.
“I will seek your advice. You’ll be close to me,” promised Dunn, who said he and Colyer saw eye to eye on most issues during the campaign. He gave her a bouquet of pale roses to show his appreciation.
For Dunn, the endorsement marked a symbolic slate-wiping for his campaign. With prior stints as a commissioner, the senior pastor at Faith Community Baptist Church had been considered the frontrunner in the District 5 race, far outraising Hardemon, Colyer and a fourth opponent, Robert Malone Jr.
But Hardemon, an assistant Miami-Dade public defender backed by term-limited Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, received about twice as many votes as Dunn in the city’s only predominantly black district, which encompasses Overtown, Liberty City, Little Haiti and portions of the Upper Eastside.
“Both of us have zero votes going into the runoff,” Dunn said Thursday. “It’s a brand-new election.”
Dunn’s campaign has been marred by questions about his political spending. A finance report submitted three weeks late, which the postal service suspected was not mailed when Dunn said he did, showed an unusually high number of expenses at restaurants, and two women who worked for his campaign said they were paid in cash, in potential violation of Florida law.
On Thursday, Dunn accused Hardemon of spending campaign money “undocumented” in its reports, but offered no evidence other than saying Hardemon had scores of workers at the polls and claiming Hardemon served lobster at his victory party. A Miami Herald reporter at the event Tuesday night saw chicken, meatballs and finger food, but no lobster.
“How can I respond to this? It’s not true,” Hardemon said. “Mr. Dunn has a reputation of telling lies.”
Hardemon noted Dunn’s latest finance report, due Nov. 1, has not yet been turned in.
“How can we take him seriously if he can’t turn in a campaign-finance report?” Hardemon said.
Dunn, acknowledging the late submission, said he plans to hand-deliver the report Friday. “We kind of got caught up in Election Day,” he said.
He pointed to stamps on his opponents’ reports showing they were received by the city after the deadline. Hardemon’s, for example, was stamped on Nov. 4. But the city only requires the reports to be postmarked by Nov. 1, a Friday. Hardemon said he mailed the report that day and the city received it three days later, on Monday.
A U.S. postal inspector suspects that, in the earlier October report, Dunn’s campaign bought pre-paid postage on the day the report was due but didn’t actually use the postage until 18 days later.
Dunn didn’t specifically address the allegations about his campaign spending Thursday, saying only that he would correct anything that needs to be corrected.
“The only legitimate issues are those that limit the progress of the entire District 5 community,” he said, reading a statement. “Political paperwork is not one of those issues.”
Dunn said he had brought on his son, Richard the III, and a political consultant, Jose Luis Castillo, to advise his runoff campaign. Castillo most recently ran the Homestead mayoral campaign of Mark Bell, who lost in a runoff Tuesday. Colyer’s political team will also join forces with Dunn’s.
And Dunn denounced the news media for mentioning in its reports on the election that his grandfather accused him in 1991, when both were at Drake Memorial Baptist Church, of using church money for personal expenses. Dunn later repaid the funds.
“It’s a shame that I have to address something that happened 22 years ago,” he said. He handed out copies of a 2006 affidavit by the church’s board chairman saying the board considered the incident a family “spat” and saw no reason to discipline Dunn.
Colyer, a Miami-Dade Children’s Trust executive, said she was more interested in focusing on the future.
“If you get off track….” she began warning Dunn.
“Spank me,” he said as she held a playful fist against his cheek. “Right in the face.”