Political newcomer Monique Barley is skipping lesser offices, like commissioner or zoning board member, and bucking for one of the most powerful political positions in South Florida -- Miami-Dade County Mayor.
“It’s common sense, basically,” Barley said recently in an interview outside an early voting site in Miami Gardens. “You have to be the one to protect the taxpayer’s money, you have to be able to determine what is going to cause the taxes to go up and go down.
Politics, she says, is in her blood.
Her cousin Keon Hardemon is a Miami City Commissioner. Her father, Roy Hardemon, is running for a seat in Florida's House of Representatives.
Several of Barley’s opponents are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on slick campaigns, including expensive television commercials.
Barley doesn’t have a political machine behind her. She’s banking on her confidence.
“I believe that I can make it to the runoff, so I have to work a little harder while they pay all of the money they have to pay to their consultants and pay people to work for them," she said. "I’m just going to work hard.”
If elected, Barley promises to take on the county’s transportation gridlock.
Her other priorities include creating more affordable housing, teaching financial literacy in the county’s poor communities and encouraging first-time homebuyers.
Barley says her years as an entrepreneur have been good preparation for managing the state’s largest county.
“I own my own debt collection agency, so I have experience in accounting, budgeting, human resources,” she said.
Barley disagrees on the notion of defunding local police departments.
“(If) we have a big crime here, you can’t call a social worker to come out to the scene to help. You need the police officers who are trained and have the capability to handle the situation.”
Five others are running against Barley to be Miami-Dade’s Mayor.
One must earn a majority, that’s 50% plus one vote, to win the seat. If not, the top two vote getters go to a runoff in November.