Miami-Dade County voters decided Tuesday that a candidate with 19 arrests, a candidate who has been investigated for Medicare fraud and a candidate still under suspicion of violating federal law by secretly financing a ringer campaign were all worthy of winning election.
Roy Hardemon is heading to Tallahassee as a state representative despite his lengthy rap sheet. He has no opponent in November.
Daphne Campbell is poised to move up to the state Senate from the state House despite her home healthcare business being shut down by the state. She defeated five rivals and now faces an independent candidate.
And David Rivera, a former congressman, is close to returning to the state House, where he began his political career alongside Marco Rubio, despite the ongoing federal criminal investigation into his 2012 reelection campaign. A Democrat with no political experience is the only thing that stands in his way.
In state legislative races, local voters seem to love a good political redemption story.
“It does say a lot about South Florida — and our society in general — that 33 or 34 percent of the electorate decided to vote for David Rivera,” said Emiliano Antunez, the campaign manager for Rivera’s chief primary rival, Kendall businessman Anthony Rodriguez.
Rivera, who could not be reached for comment, defeated Rodriguez by 177 votes in a five-way race — suggesting Rivera might have lost if he had had fewer competitors.
“This makes an excellent case for runoffs,” Antunez lamented.
But no such thing exists anymore in state legislative primaries. Which means a candidate like Hardemon, whose family is well known in his liberal-leaning district that includes Liberty City and Little Haiti, could be vastly outspent and still win.
On Wednesday, Hardemon told the Miami Herald “there was concern” among some voters about his criminal record.
“But our friend the Herald started writing about it, and everyone saw it as a smear tactic,” he said.
Hardemon’s son was also arrested while campaigning on his father’s behalf. The candidate, whose nephew is Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon, won the seven-way race with less than 22 percent of the vote.
Hardemon, a community activist in Liberty City, said he will reach out beyond his African-American base to solve problems in the diverse district, which includes wealthier areas like Miami Shores.
“I need to learn how to be a rich man,” he quipped about representing voters there.
Hardemon says he will reach out to the woman he’s succeeding in office: Campbell.
“I’m seeing what Rep. Campbell had on the table and what she would like me to continue to do,” he said.
For her part, Campbell, who could not be reached for comment, captured 31 percent of the vote in a six-way Democratic primary for a newly redrawn state Senate district.
“In Senate District 38 there was a crowded field and 69 percent of the voters rejected Daphne Campbell,” said Christian Ulvert, who worked for Campbell rival Jason Pizzo. “When you deal with a race where several candidates who jumped in late divided the vote, you have an outcome where someone with ethical challenges and investigations got elected.”
Ulvert referred to District 38 as a “coalition district,” meaning that a winning candidate in a one-on-one race would have to reach out to multiple constituencies to win. Campbell, who primarily campaigned in the Haitian community and did not attend many events with her competitors, was able to rack up large margins with her base voters to win.
Three politicians with legal issues won primaries on Tuesday:
Roy Hardemon, a community activist from Liberty City, has 19 arrests on his record. They include charges typically associated with civil disobedience, like trespassing and resisting arrest, but also more serious offenses like battery. Hardemon qualified for the ballot in June while still on probation for misdemeanor battery after punching a woman. He recently completed the terms of his probation after an initial violation for failing to attend domestic violence classes. Hardemon has never been convicted of a felony and never served time in prison.
Daphne Campbell, a sitting state representative, was under investigation by the state attorney’s office on allegations of Medicaid fraud at her home healthcare business. The business was later shut down by the state after it was discovered that residents were living in squalor. Campbell’s campaign manager recently completed probation for campaign violations related to illegal expenditures. Daphne’s son, Gregory Campbell, was charged with Medicaid fraud and a new trial is set to begin in September after his conviction was thrown out by an appeal court. Daphne Campbell has never been charged or indicted by the state attorney’s office.
David Rivera, a former U.S. congressman, remains embroiled in a pending federal investigation and faces allegations of violating state ethics laws. The newly-minted millionaire has been out of office since 2013 and a former girlfriend accused him of assault earlier this year. His former girlfriend and a ringer candidate both served time in jail after it was discovered they ran a sham campaign. The candidate, Justin Lamar Sternad, said Rivera and his girlfriend “took advantage” of him. Rivera served as budget chief while serving in the Florida House. He has never been charged or indicted by the U.S. attorney’s office.