Has District 5 election turned into a two-man race?

Recent forum appears to have Dunn, Hardemon going after each other

10/24/2013, 9 a.m.
With the recent redistricting in the State of Florida, the City of Miami’s District 5 looks different than it did ...
KEEPING THINGS IN ORDER: Young Dems VP Aaron McKinney moderates a recent forum for the candidates of District 5. Miami Times photo/Cuthbert Harewood

With the recent redistricting in the State of Florida, the City of Miami’s District 5 looks different than it did when outgoing Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones was elected to the dais. Where the District was once mostly comprised of historic Overtown and Liberty City, today it also includes more economically-advantaged areas like Buena Vista, Shorecrest, Palm Grove, Oakland and Belle Meade. Candidates are therefore required to address issues like crime and public services as well as those more in tune to a developing waterfront business community whose concerns are quite different.

Add to that the change in demographics, which includes a rise in Hispanic and white non-Hispanic registered voters, increasing to 26.5 and 6.5 percent, respectively, and it’s clear that to win the commissioner’s seat will take a nuanced political platform. Blacks still represent the majority of the District’s registered voters at 67 percent with a total number of voters now at 80,193. However, to secure a victory, the four candidates realize that they will need to persuade a diverse pool of voters that they can speak to a plethora of concerns.

But in last week’s forum, co-sponsored by the Florida New Majority and the Miami-Dade Young Democrats at Hadley Park, while each candidate had their supporters urging them on in the audience, two of them, Rev. Richard Dunn II and Keon Hardemon, appeared to have their sights set on one another.

Dunn has positioned himself as the more experienced candidate because of his previous time in office. Readers may recall that it was Dunn who replaced Spence-Jones when she was temporarily removed from office pending an investigation by State officials. However, Hardemon has received the endorsement of Spence-Jones, who has been reported to even be going door-to-door in order to secure votes for her young protegee.

“I know what it’s like to be a man without a voice — those who live in this District deserve to be heard and respected like other communities in Miami,” Hardemon said.

In a clear dig against Dunn, who some say is the current front runner, Hardemon said when asked about police brutality, “I would never charge forward for a microphone or television coverage without first knowing the facts. The legal process should always be followed first and one needs to be prepared to use foresight not hindsight when addressing issues of community safety and the actions of our City police officers.”

Dunn responded that it was his actions and persistence that led to the dismissal of former Police Chief Miguel Exposito who found himself in the hot seat following a seven-month period where Miami police shot and killed seven Black men, beginning in the summer of 2011.

But Dunn has had his share of challenges, including public records that point to past problems with church and personal finances. Last week we reported that Dunn had raised just over $11,000 based on his last filing with the City Board of Elections. He missed the most recent filing but said that he would be reporting an amount “in excess of $100,000 within the next few days.”