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Omari Hardy, one of the leading candidates running to fill a vacant South Florida congressional seat, has been repeatedly cited by Florida election officials for missing filing deadlines for the campaign committees connected to his current job, state representative.
Hardy said he takes responsibility for the late reports during the past 16 months. The reason, he said, is that he has ADHD, diagnosed about 10 years ago. He said, however, it wouldn’t interfere with his ability to run for Congress or serve if elected.
“I wouldn’t stake my own life on my ability to submit some tedious paperwork on tight deadlines over and over again. That is my kryptonite. But I excel at advocating for my constituents,” Hardy said in a telephone interview.
“My job as a legislator is to intelligently and passionately advocate for my constituents, who are working class, and people of color. That’s what I do well. That’s my greatest strength. My weakness is submitting paperwork, submitting tedious paperwork on tight deadlines,” he said.
“ADHD comes with pluses and minuses. People who deal with this, we all struggle, doing paperwork and things of this nature on a deadline. It feels like climbing Mount Everest for me,” Hardy said.
State records show Hardy, who was elected last year to a Palm Beach County state House seat, has filed reports late nine times. One other state representative from Palm Beach County had three late reports. Seven others had no late reports.
The first report he was required to file for his current campaign, for Congress, was on time, the Federal Election Commission website shows.
Hardy said that meeting deadlines for time-sensitive obligations — including making it to the swearing-in for his previous position, as Lake Worth Beach city commissioner, and to his own wedding — are a challenge.
Hardy, 31, has less time in office than the other elected officials running for Congress and has eschewed some of the political niceties observed by establishment political veterans.
He’s challenged Republicans — and fellow Democrats when he believes they’ve muted their criticism of the Republicans who control state government in hopes they can get a few leftover scraps from the Legislature’s political table.
Hardy pointed to his first Legislative session this year, during which he was an outspoken advocate for progressive policies and a critic of Republicans, including Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Look, if anyone would dare say that because I’m bad at submitting paperwork on time I can’t possibly be a good congressman, I would ask them to just go to the Florida Channel, and watch the work that I did throughout the past legislative session, both in committee and on the floor,” Hardy said. “I would ask them to go watch our Lake Worth Beach City Commission meetings, and watch how I advocated for my largely working class black and brown constituents who were being systematically disenfranchised in that city.”
Studies estimate that some 4.4% of adults have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, widely known as ADHD. The rate among men is higher than among women.
The National Institutes of Health reports that symptoms can include overlooking or missing details; making “careless” mistakes at work or other activities; failing to follow through on instructions or duties in the workplace; and difficulties meeting deadlines, preparing reports or completing forms.
Hardy said he was diagnosed 10 years ago.
“I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until I was an adult. So I’m still learning about this weakness of mine. It is something I used to be ashamed of. I know there is a stigma around ADHD,” he said. “I wish that I were a perfect example of someone who has overcome all the challenges that come with living with ADHD. I’m not. I make mistakes. … But I have to continue to be open about this because I think kids and adults with ADHD need to know that they are not alone, that although they have challenges, there’s nothing wrong with them as human beings in that they’re capable of accomplishing a lot in life.”
“The poster children for ADHD are rich, white billionaire men,” like Richard Branson, who recently traveled to the edge of space on his Virgin Galactic craft, or David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue Airways. Hardy said they’re not relatable to most people.
Hardy’s first late report was the one due March 10, 2020. It wasn’t filed until April 9. The next monthly report, due April 10, 2020, was filed on April 15. Another seven reports were late, most by a day or two.
He’s been issued $2,495 in fines.
He appealed the fine for the late April 2020 report. In a letter to the Division of Elections, he said his campaign received almost 1,000 small contributions after a video of him at the Lake Worth Beach City Commission went viral, requiring a total of about 2,000 transactions, including processing fees for each donation.
He said his campaign consultant at the time attempted to get guidance from the Division of Elections on the best way to report all the transactions, didn’t get a response, and filed a report. The system initially said “processing complete” but the campaign later discovered “technical errors” requiring a new submission.
Records show Hardy served as his own campaign treasurer, something candidates sometimes like to do so they can keep an eye on the money. Many campaign managers don’t like their clients to handle treasurer duties because they don’t want them spending time on paperwork, and risk mistakes and negative attention, instead of meeting with voters or raising money.
Susan MacManus, a retired University of South Florida political science professor, is a former chairwoman of the Florida Elections Commission, which investigates and adjudicates violations of the Florida Election Code.
MacManus said it’s not a good idea for a candidate to serve as campaign treasurer. “The most important person that you can have on your campaign is a person who understands campaign finance and the laws regarding it,” she said.
Violations can lessen public trust, MacManus said, but they aren’t politically fatal.
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Hardy is using a professional campaign firm to handle reporting for the congressional effort.
“When I ran for state rep I did not have the team around me that I do now,” he said. “I made the mistake of putting a lot of this paperwork on myself. It was more complicated and onerous than I imagined.”