Dotie Joseph in strong position to defend HD 108 seat against old foe, new challenger

She has delivered big sums of money to her district, raised more campaign funds and carries none of the baggage her opponents have.

Roy Hardemon was running his first re-election bid when Rep. Dotie Joseph soundly defeated him and one other candidate in the 2018 Democratic Primary to all but secure for herself the seat representing House District 108. He’s now running his second consecutive campaign to win it back.

Also running this year is Michael Etienne, a former Democratic elected North Miami City Clerk who in June dove headfirst into the HD 108 contest with more than $60,000 in radio ad purchases on his first day of running.

Based on multiple factors, from the candidates’ histories and respective fundraising to the incumbent’s past performance in Tallahassee, Joseph is in a strong position to defend her seat and win a third term in the Legislature’s lower chamber.

Both Hardemon and Etienne have histories that could turn voters off. Hardemon has a long rap sheet of criminal misdoings, from arrests for grand theft auto in 1987 and armed burglary, battery and kidnapping in 1994 to an unchallenged 2015 conviction for the battery of his then-fiancée.

Etienne, who last year mounted an unsuccessful mayoral bid in the city, has a less violent history. In 2018, he pleaded no contest to charges of mishandling taxpayer money for spending more than $2,000 to visit Mount Rushmore during a 2016 work conference trip.

Joseph, meanwhile, appears to have only gained more support among her constituents in HD 108. The district covers a strip of northeast Miami-Dade County, including all of Biscayne Park, El Portal and Miami Shores Village, and portions of North Miami and Miami, including parts of the Little Haiti and Wynwood neighborhoods.

She won the 2018 Primary with more than 49% of the vote, compared to 36% for Hardemon. In 2020, in another faceoff, about 57.5% of voters cast ballots in her favor, with 31% selecting Hardemon.

Since winning office, Joseph has brought back large sums of money to her district, including a $350,000 earmark in this year’s budget for senior meal deliveries in North Miami. Other set-asides she fought for and received include billions for road improvements in Miami Shores, $2.5 million for anti-flooding pump stations in Miami and $27,000 for the Miami-Dade Haitian Heritage Museum.

She also successfully backed legislation removing the statute of limitations on crimes involving child pornography, expanding public school aid eligibility for children with developmental delays, and several bills honoring the history and culture of Haitian people, who constitute a large portion of her district’s constituency.

A lawyer in private life, Joseph was among those most vocal in her party who opposed controversial, GOP-backed measures, including tighter voting restrictions and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new congressional map that drew legal challenges over its alleged erasure of Black-performing districts. She also spoke out against the “Individual Freedom” bill, which took aim at so-called “woke” indoctrinations of cultural guilt in workplaces and public schools.

Through early August, Joseph raised nearly $170,000 this cycle between her campaign account and political committee, Victory Now. That’s more than doubled the combined holdings of her opponents.

Etienne raised — and spent — about $64,000 since filing for the HD 108 race. All but $3,000 of that came from his own bank account.

Hardemon, who filed to run in September, raised just $1,500. He has not reported any campaign finance activity since May and received 19 warnings from the Division of Elections for failing to file reports on time.

Since only Democrats are running in HD 108, the three-way contest between Joseph, Hardemon and Etienne is considered an “open” Primary in which all voters can cast votes regardless of party affiliation.

The candidate with the most votes on Aug. 23 will be considered elected on Nov. 8.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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