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Edmonson, Hardemon to square off

caines | 8/23/2012, 5:30 a.m.

Voters prepare for county commission run-off election

Voters in last weeks primary elections thanked auto magnate Norman Braman by rejecting all four of his hand-picked candidates in their bids for Miami-Dade County commission seats. And while he still contends that he gave his support in order to give the voters a choice, the voters opted to retain two of the four incumbents: Barbara Jordan [District 1]; and Dennis Moss [District 9]. On Friday it was determined that Bruno Barreiro [District 5] will face Luis Garcia in a runoff coming up nine votes short of the 50-percent-plus-one vote majority required after officials counted provisional ballots and a disputed absentee ballot in the race. . But that's not the only runoff voters can look forward to. Similar to the outcome of the 2010 election, when longtime incumbent Dorrin Rolle was upset by Jean Monestime for the District 2 county commission slot, incumbent and Vice-chairwoman Audrey Edmonson, 59, finds herself in a rare runoff against Liberty City native Keon Hardemon.

Neither candidate shocked by results

Edmonson garnered 43 percent of the vote and led the pack of six candidates, including: Braman-sponsored Alison Austin (16 percent); Michael Jackson Joseph (8 percent); Eddie Lewis (4 percent); and Nadia Pierre (9 percent). But it was Hardemon, 28, a Miami Northwestern grad who went on to earn his MBA and law degree from the University of Miami, that was able to force the incumbent into a November runoff by pulling in 20 percent of the vote. In terms of actual numbers, the top two candidates pulled in 6,848 and 3,193 votes, respectively. I wasnt surprised that this went to a runoff given the number of candidates in the primary race, Edmonson said. Still I was pleased that I secured the largest percentage of votes. I believe that was because I was able to explain my platform to the people. Moving forward to November, Im going to have to keep pounding the pavement and knocking on doors. Im going to have to continue to tell my story and point out the things I have accomplished. Hardemon says it was always his goal to secure second place in the primary. I knew it would be tough to unseat an incumbent so our strategy was to take the next highest number of votes, he said. All of the candidates had to run their best campaign and thats just what my camp did. Now that its a two-person race, I think people will see that I have what it takes I think I can win this. Redistricting changes the landscape It was approximately five months ago that new boundaries were approved, changing the size, neighborhoods and the voting constituency throughout the State of Florida, including District 3. Both candidates say they know they have work to do if they are to secure these new voters. Hardemon estimates that there are an additional 4,000 voters in the redrawn district. My alma mater, Miami Northwestern, is now included in District 3 that gives me hope, he said. What amazed me was as I went door-to-door, I discovered that a lot of voters didnt even know they were now in District 3. I had to explain that; then I went on to secure their votes. Edmonson agrees that getting the word out to voters regarding changes to the District was a challenge. District 3 is a diverse community inner city, Haitian-Americans, Blacks and Hispanics, she said. I held three meet-and-greets aimed at introducing myself to residents that had been added to my District. I will have to do even more of that to spread the word and to share my accomplishments. But I won every precinct except one which went to Austin. Thats the plan the next time around.

Final words from the candidates

With about 80 days remaining until the election in November, both candidates say theyll have to push their individual platforms and persuade the voters that theyre the best person for the job. Edmonson says she welcomes the challenge. Ive brought affordable housing to the District and put roofs over peoples heads, she said. And while Ive been criticized for not doing enough for small and minority-owned businesses, I have made sure that a significant amount of new construction and related jobs were brought to District 3. Part of my goal has also been to monitor how County contracts and work done on County-owned land lined up with our objectives to make sure minorities have equal opportunities. As for Hardemon, he says he relishes the role of the underdog. The Commissioner has had six years to make good on her name and accomplishments, he said. That just means I have to work ten-times harder to persuade voters that Im the best person for the job. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com