Allen was charged with one count of organ­ized fraud and 15 counts of grand theft. (In 2007, the felonies were dropped in exchange for a guilty plea on petty theft misdemeanors. He received five years' probation.)

While Allen's scheme crumbled and Keon finished college, Barbara and Billy remade the family name as giant-killers by backing Michelle Spence-Jones. With the Hardemons' help, she beat eight challengers for the seat vacated by the late Arthur Teele. Her strongest challenger, Rev. Richard Dunn II, told the Miami Herald that the Hardemons were key to her win: "If you put them out there on the streets, you've got something."

But Dunn also sued Billy for defamation over radio spots in which he proclaimed, "Don't waste your vote on Rev. Richard Dunn. He will be arrested again in 90 days." (The complaint was later dismissed.)

Keon Hardemon's last name could weigh him down.
Danielle Ungermann
Keon Hardemon's last name could weigh him down.

The Hardemons' big victory soon became another source of scandal. After Spence-Jones took office, Billy and Barbara were accused of using the new commissioner to snag contracts. Billy was hired as a lobbyist for Fuel Outdoor Holdings, while Barbara was paid by two developers looking to win massive projects in Overtown and Coconut Grove.

Prosecutors investigated allegations that Spence-Jones had forced the developers to hire Barbara in exchange for her vote, but later closed the case with no charges.

The legal issues haven't been limited to Keon's extended family either. In 2004, then-Chief John Timoney fired Keon's mom, who had been a Miami police officer since 1995, citing a controversial policy prohibiting officers from fraternizing with criminals. April's live-in boyfriend, Gregory Barnes, had served time for cocaine trafficking. Her termination sparked protests from the NAACP, which pointed out that Timoney's own son, Sean, had a drug-trafficking conviction. April was later reinstated.

About five years after that drama, Keon caught the family political bug. He had just returned from Tallahassee and landed a job selling pharmaceuticals for Pfizer while attending law school at the University of Miami.

"He had an opportunity to make a lot of money," April says. "But he decided he'd rather run for public office."

Keon was motivated by the stagnant state of Liberty City. "I came back, and my community was still the same," he says. He quit his job with Pfizer and, after earning his law degree, went to work as a public defender.

From the beginning of his campaign against Edmonson, Keon knew his last name would be an asset. He decided to embrace it. His first move was asking Billy and Barbara to run his campaign, even though the pair had consulted on both of Edmonson's previous victories and planned to work for her again.

"When he told me he wanted to run for Audrey's seat, I was like, Oh shit," Billy recalls. "We decided it was not fair to Keon that we allow our personal interests to stifle his development."

Most observers doubted Keon could make a runoff. Among the four candidates challenging Edmonson, Tacolcy Center executive Allison Austin was seen as the favorite because auto magnate Norman Braman was backing her. But on August 14, Keon bested Austin by 700 votes to claim second place with 20 percent. Edmonson notched 40 percent, 11 points below the threshold to avoid a runoff.

Inside his small campaign headquarters on the corner of NW Seventh Avenue and 62nd Street, Keon claims the controversies that have dogged his family shouldn't reflect on him. After all, he has a clean record.

"I did what I was supposed to do," he says. "I got an education and came back to help my community."

Keon also bristles at Edmonson's suggestion that his uncles and aunt would use his win at county hall to look for a payday. "If [Billy and Barbara] were opportunists, they would still be working for Audrey Edmonson," he says.

Despite Edmonson's cash advantage — Keon raised just $30,000 for the primary, versus the incumbent's $300,000 — Billy believes his nephew can win. He has the support of Spence-Jones, as well as Austin and the two other candidates who didn't make the runoff.

Billy adds that the presidential election will bump voter turnout to 60,000, instead of the paltry 16,000 who showed up for the primary. What's more, Billy and Barbara are key get-out-the-vote organizers for the Obama campaign; as they rally Barack supporters, they'll also be able to push for their nephew.

"You are going to have a lot of people coming out who have never voted for Audrey before," Billy says. "We have just as good a chance at convincing those people to vote for Keon."

Although Keon has criticized Edmonson for supporting the Marlins Park deal and failing to block a move to privatize Head Start programs, the incumbent says she's confident voters will keep her in office.

"When it comes down to it, I am the better candidate," she says. "We can't go backward with a candidate who's going to be on the job learning."

Keon, though, says he's sure the Hardemon clan will propel him to another shocking victory.

"I wouldn't be here without my family," he says.

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3 comments
voiceunheard
voiceunheard

Check this out you will have my vote just because of Audrey Edmondson back stabbing the blacks on THE MARLINS STADIUM DEAL AND THE PORT TUNNEL...........................WE MUST REMEMBER THAT MICHELLE SPENCE JONES ALSO MADE A LARGE IMPACT ON THE STADIUM DEAL BECAUSE SHE CAME OFF OF MATERNITY LEAVE TO HELP THE 3-3 VOTE SHE BRPKE THE TIE.....ALL IS WELL................................................HEY WHERE IS GEORGE HARDEMON ONE OF THE GREAT MATREARCH IN THE GAME....................................I WILL HELP CAMPAIGN FOR YOU

nicolesadaa
nicolesadaa

FYI....YOU DIDNT NEED THIS YOUNG MAN FOR THIS STORY, IT SEEMS AS IF YOU YOURSELF HAD ALREADY FORMED YOUR OPINION ON PUBLIC INFORMATION THAT YOU USED IN ORDER TO GET NEGATIVE REACTION TOWARDS THIS HARD WORKING YOUNG MAN WHO DESERVES  MORE THAN A CHANCE. I TOTALLY DISAGREE WITH HOW YOU AND HOW YOU TRYING  TO STEER HIS SUPPORTERS AWAY ....WELL, IT WONT WORK!!!!!!! IM VOTING # 83 FOR KEON HARDEMON AND HOPE YOU DO TOO,IF YOU LIVE IN DISTRICT 3......GO TO THE FINISH MR. HARDEMON YOU DESERVE TO SERVE YOUR COMMUNITY..FOR THE PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE OF OUR COMMUNITY.

aniya2k5
aniya2k5

Shame on you New Times for putting that nice picture of our future possible leader in District 3 , why pretend to want to do a success story on him in spite of his odds, Instead it was a charater assasination against his loving supporting family, This story was not about Keon as I thought it would be. How about commending his mom and grand mother for a job well done. Keon has done what he was asked to do . Stay out of troauble stay in school and give back to his community..... He has done just that . Shame on you for not moving FORWARD on this story. M

 
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