by: Patricia Tolson
HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. – On a humid, overcast Wednesday afternoon I met with Isaiah Christian Haddon, a 20-year-old Hernando native running for the District 1 seat on the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).
As a 60-something-year-old, life-long registered Republican, one might ask why on earth I would even consider having a conversation with a kid (and a Democrat, no less) with little experience managing a household (let alone a business) budget who is running for a position that would give him a say-so in budgetary decisions for the entire county. Well, for starters, his election would be historic. Not only would Haddon be the first African American to sit on the Hernando County BOCC, but he would also become the youngest BOCC member since Republican Robert Schenck was elected to represent District 4 in 2002 at the tender age of 27.
I have heard people say Haddon is vague in his answers to important questions regarding issues like identifying areas where the county needs to increase funding” and naming “three top issues facing the county that need to be addressed.”
Fair enough. However, aside from the experience — outlined by the Hernando Sun in the “Meet the Candidates: County Commissioner District 1” article back in June — Haddon’s D-4 challengers were equally ambiguous.
“Right now, the board is made up of business owners,” Haddon noted, “which is good. But what it’s lacking is someone who represents the average citizen, the worker, the people spending money in those businesses.”
That’s another priority in Haddon’s life – helping the average citizen and bringing people together on common ground. Sounds naïve — like the sort of “pie-in-the-sky” dream that you’d hear from some inexperienced kid who hadn’t been around the block yet — doesn’t it? Or does it sound like the sort of thing we all used to think was worth striving for before people like us kept telling you how childish it was to strive for such a thing?
Rather than talk, Haddon acts. Rather than seeing a problem and saying “hey, someone needs to do something about that,” Haddon gets up and starts organizing people to get it done.
He is a member of Christian Church in the Wildwood’s worship team, helping members of the community by doing things like lawn work and brainstorming ideas for relief for the Sri Lanka bombing. He is working with his youth pastor on an idea to help the homeless in our area by trying to help the homeless find a permanent address so they can do simple things that the rest of us take for granted like receiving mail and having an address to put down on a job application and to receive vote-by-mail ballots etc.
“While in school, I have helped raise money for families that had family members with ALS,” Haddon shared, “ I’ve done music gigs to raise money for other charities, and usually had a big hand in setting up events.”
While currently working as a Phlebotomist at LifeSouth Community Blood Centers taking blood donations for the local hospitals, Haddon has also completed his EMT course at PHSC and is planning on continuing to become a Fireman.
As for his organization of Peace Walks in support of the cause known as “Black Lives Matter, he insists he hasn’t organized what you would call “BLM events.”
“I wouldn’t even call the Peace Walk a BLM event as they would have hated how much I worked with the police,” Haddon clarified. And, while Haddon did attend the Tampa protest the week before his Peace Walk in Brooksville, he found it to be too large and unorganized. But it helped him understand that he would need to seek out plans to improve on the concept. One measure was to work directly with the Sheriff’s Office to ensure the “Peace” stayed in the “Walk.”
“It finally happened!” Haddon exclaimed, sharing a picture of an ominous-looking mailer that recently began showing up in mailboxes throughout Hernando County. “My first smear campaign!”
The mailer, funded by “Voter’s Response,” casts Haddon as a dangerous Black Lives Matter socialist radical. Images of Haddon speaking with a megaphone are coupled with images of fires raging from riots that happened somewhere else and a reminder that BLM “is a Marxist organization committed to defunding our police, removing cops from schools and anarchy in our streets.”
The purpose of the mailer is to make you fear Haddon. The intention of the mailer is to make you see Haddon as a threat to you, your children, and your entire community. However, these images are in stark contrast to the reality of the Peace Walk – attended by members of his church, other people from the community, and even some of the current commissioners – which Haddon organized with the assistance of the Sheriff’s office.
“The black community in America is having problems,” Haddon explained. “When we had our Peace Walk, which is completely what it was intended to be, we walked around with flowers. Before we even started, I was on a megaphone telling people: “Hey, I know you’ve heard about what you’re supposed to do at a protest but that’s not what we’re here for. I want you to have your phones out. I want us to hold each other accountable. That was the biggest thing I wanted to make clear. This was about peace and unity, about saying our piece and having it be heard.”
Curiously, the only weapons and threats of violence that blemished Haddon’s Peace Walk were brought to the event by counter-protesters. Perhaps this is due to the controversial Facebook Group that popped up ahead of the Peace Walk.
As reported June 4 by WMNF screenshots of overtly racist and violent posts began showing up across social media, which originated on a private Facebook group called “Defend Hernando County.” The contentious group, which has since been hidden, had at least 2,600 members.
Now let’s get back to those campaign fliers sent out by Voter’s Response to smear Haddon. This isn’t the first time Voter’s Response has engaged in an “October Surprise” styled disinformation campaign against a candidate they wanted to take down.
Using what has been described as “dirt fliers” Voter’s Response has targeted unwanted candidates who dared to challenge the Republican good ole boys club in 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2018 and has been tied to a string of new “anonymous hit pieces” — reported by Laurence Reisman for Treasure Coast Newspapers on Aug. 14 — as part of Florida’s political “ugliness in 2020.”
In addition, Voters Response had a complaint filed against it in 2011 with the Federal Elections Commission and the political smear machine made the list of nine “Mysterious Political Committees Raising Big Bucks For Miami Candidates” back in 2012.
The two men in charge of Voter’s Response, William Helmich and David E. Ramba, are also in charge of another dubious political committee called (ironically) Citizens for Principled Leadership PC. Both men were part of a 2018 Politico article regarding the slick and shady shall game played with campaign contributions.
While Haddon’s Republican challenger, Beth Narverud, denies any involvement with the Voters Response smear campaign, she has yet to condemn the act. She also refuses to respond to Haddon’s request for a public debate.
“Like I said to the group of individuals who threatened us with knives and yelled slurs at us during our Peace Walk,” Haddon wrote on his Facebook post of the mailer, “the world demands so much more love from us.”
“Win or lose this election,” he added to his post about the smear fliers, “we will come together as Americans.”
So… As a life-long registered Republican, one might ask why on earth I would even want to have a conversation with a kid (and a Democrat, no less) with little experience managing a household (let alone a business) budget who is running for a position that would give him a say-so in budgetary decisions for the entire county. Well, aside from the historic significance of his endeavor, the kid has passion. He’s rooting for the underdog, the forgotten citizen, the worker bees. Granted, he doesn’t own his own business and he doesn’t have a lot of experience working with a budget. But voting for someone just because they own a business and have budget experience is how Hernando County ended up with one county commissioner who is a blatant and unapologetic racist, another who had to resign in disgrace because he got caught running a brothel out of his house and then actually tried to run again to reclaim his and still another who lies about his academic achievements, tells unstable constituents they can legally shoot their dog and tries to use his position to his own financial benefit.
So, if being a business owner with budget experience are always going to be the primary criteria by any candidate should be judged in order to receive your consideration, I refer you to Albert Einstein’s parable of quantum insanity, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”