If Liberty City politics had a royal family, Keon Hardemon would be Prince William. The 29-year-old pride of the James E. Scott Housing Community in Miami's Liberty City comes from a family that has been a force in local politics for almost over half a century, ever since grandmother Ethel moved into the housing project with her husband and their 15 children.
Hardemon, a Miami Law graduate, has a strong handshake, a sincere smile and a commitment to bring the highest caliber of representation to his constituents in his run for Miami-Dade Commissioner for District 3 in the Nov. 6 election. After forcing a runoff in the August primary against a well-funded incumbent, Hardemon is working hard, knocking on doors and getting out the word about who he is and what his plans are.
"The University of Miami School of Law helped prepare me for this journey by training me to become a legal advocate for my community," he said.
At Miami Law, Hardemon was the Symposia Editor for the University of Miami Black Law Review; a two-term parliamentarian for the Student Bar Association; a research assistant for a law professor; a Fellow for the Center for Ethics and Public Service; and Vice-President of the Black Law Students Association. He created the Harvard Law, Charles J. Ogletree Jr. Community Forum and Panel Discussion, which considered whether President Barack Obama has an obligation to the black community. Hardemon taught high school students about Constitutional Law through the STREET LAW Program; helped provide indigent children with civil representation in court while interning at the Legal Aid Service of Broward County; researched cases of ineffective assistance of counsel while interning with a federal magistrate in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida; and, in the Office of the Federal Public Defender, helped to represent indigent people charged with federal crimes.
Hardemon received both a Dean's Honor Scholarship and a Dean's Public Interest Scholarship, and was a semi-finalist in the Regional Black Law Students Association Mock Trial Competition. Most notably, he was recognized for successfully arguing mitigating evidence in a capital case that saved a man from the death penalty. Despite participating in this surfeit of activities, Hardemon was able to graduate from law school a semester earlier than some of his classmates. Immediately after graduating, he began studying for the Florida Bar and passed it on his first attempt.
Hardemon has worked in the Miami-Dade County Public Defender's Office for the past two years. He is also a member of one of Liberty City's most powerful political families; his uncle Billy Hardemon and aunt Barbara Hardemon are long-time political operatives who are running his campaign. Another uncle, Roy Hardemon, recently lost a race for a state House seat. Hardemon's mother, a Miami police officer, raised him in Miami with help from his grandparents, who had 15 children of their own. Although Hardemon initially worked for a Fortune 500 corporation, he chose to work as an Assistant Public Defender because, he said, of his desire to serve his community.
"My trust in God, hard work, and education has carried me from living in public housing to working as an attorney in the Public Defender's Office," Hardemon said. "As an Assistant Public Defender, my responsibility is to represent those who cannot afford legal counsel, and as a County Commissioner, I will serve and defend the public's best interest every day."