Monique Nicole Barley, 37, aimed high when she followed the family tradition last year and signed up to run for office.

Fourteen months later, the candidate for Miami-Dade mayor sees no reason for experience to be a selling point in a county with one of the widest prosperity gaps in the nation.

“The candidates we have now, they had their opportunities to show the Black and Brown community what they could be doing,” said Barley, a law firm employee and the daughter of former state Representative Roy Hardemon. “But they don’t do it.”

One of six people on the Aug. 18 ballot, Barley and fellow first-time candidate Ludmilla Domond are the only Black candidates running in the Aug. 18 non-partisan primary to succeed term-limited Carlos Gimenez.

The other four candidates — former mayor Alex Penelas and commissioners Esteban “Steve” Bovo, Daniella Levine Cava and Xavier Suarez — had more than $5 million in their campaign and committee coffers when July began.

Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Monique Nicole Barley speaks outside the Stephen P. Clark Center on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.
Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Monique Nicole Barley speaks outside the Stephen P. Clark Center on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

Barley has raised about $1,000. But she’s earning air time on various candidate forums and events, including a Univision debate where the Political Cortadito blog praised her for delivering “good, and concise, answers to most questions.” Domond did not attend that event, and Barley had her English answers translated into Spanish.

From homelessness to running for mayor

Running on a slogan of “Who’s Better for Change,” Barley comes to the campaign with a biography that touched on hard times. As a single mother in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2007, Barley said she and two young daughters shared a room with other families in a dormitory for new mothers experiencing homelessness. She described working low-wage jobs in fast food and security before bills got too far away from income.

Barley said she turned things around when a friend of a friend offered them a place to live. From there, she started a career in the debt-collection industry, at one point owning her own firm in North Carolina.

That business folded as Barley and her husband divorced, and Barley returned to the Miami area, where she now works as a supervisor at a Coral Gables law firm. She and her mother moved out of a county public housing complex two months ago, and now live in Miami Gardens.

Barley said she supports Sybrina Fulton over the city’s mayor, Oliver Gilbert, in the race to replace outgoing incumbent Barbara Jordan as the county’s District 1 commissioner.

Barley said she’s running for mayor to “speak on the issues that have been left out of our community for many, many years.” She wants more effort directed toward public housing, and opposed the 2019 redevelopment of the Liberty Square complex as contributing to gentrification for its mix of subsidized and market-rate units.

In one of her first campaign videos, Barley told voters she opposes building more highways in Miami-Dade and that a “train is coming” if she’s elected mayor.

Three members of the Hardemon family on the ballot

She also called the recent racial-justice protests “selfish” for so many people gathering during the COVID pandemic, wants a more diverse police force and said she’ll bring a campaign to Miami-Dade as mayor that promotes race relations and discourages stereotyping. She criticized Miami-Dade for not focusing on job creation in majority-Black neighborhoods.

“They haven’t spoken on economic development,” she said, “as far as creating opportunities and jobs in Liberty City and Model City.”

Running for mayor adds another politician to the Hardemon family, and two of her relatives will be on the ballot with her in August.

Cousin Keon Hardemon, a Miami city commissioner, is running for the District 3 County Commission seat. Her father is running to reclaim the Florida District 108 seat he lost to Dotie Joseph in 2018.

Barley served as a campaign manager for Hardemon’s successful 2016 run for the Florida House. Hardemon said he was stunned when his daughter announced her plans to run for mayor.

“That’s what she chose,” he said. “She wanted to be in the fight.”

The Miami Herald has written articles about other candidates for Miami-Dade mayor, and has more to come. Click here to read about Esteban “Steve” Bovo, Daniella Levine Cava, Alex Penelas, and Xavier Suarez.