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News: Top Stories

Florida House candidate withdraws after college degree controversy

Tribune News Service logo Tribune News Service 8/14/2018 By Sara Nealeigh, The Bradenton Herald

a woman smiling for the camera © Facebook

BRADENTON, Fla. - A day after releasing a statement that she was staying in the race for a seat in the Florida legislature, Republican Melissa Howard said she will withdraw.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Howard said she would withdraw from the race for House District 73.

"I made a terrible error in judgment," Howard said in a statement, first provided to Florida Politics. "I am thankful for everyone who gave so much toward my success, and I am deeply sorry."

"I have come to the realization that the right thing to do for my community is to withdraw from the race. I will do so today," Howard said on Facebook.

The post went on to say she will continue to serve the community and "work to improve the lives of other people."

The decision comes after Howard was accused of lying about receiving a degree from Miami University in Ohio, and posed for a picture with a framed degree. The university's counsel later released a statement saying the degree did not appear to be "accurate."

Howard apologized in a statement Monday, saying it was not her "intent to deceive or mislead anyone." She went on to say she "made a mistake" in saying she completed her degree. At the time, she said she would stay in the race.

However, she reversed the decision Tuesday.

Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said Tuesday it was a "disappointment that such a thing has occurred," but that Howard "did the right thing" by dropping out of the race.

"It saddens me to think that such a thing has happened, it disappoints me, but I wish her well in the future," Baugh said. "We'll all move forward."

Baugh briefly ran for the House District 73 seat before dropping out and endorsing Howard. She said "of course" she was surprised by the news of the degree controversy and "had no idea that such a thing had transpired."

Joe Gruters, a state representative and Howard's campaign treasurer, told Florida Politics that she "made the right decision and saved the community and the party any additional heartache."

"I hope she gets whatever help she needs. We wish her success moving forward and look forward to supporting Tommy Gregory," Gruters told Florida Politics.

Howard was running against Gregory in the Aug. 28 primary to represent House District 73, which includes parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties. Gregory will face Liv Coleman in the Nov. 6 election for the seat.

Baugh said she will support Gregory in the race.

Visit The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.) at www.bradenton.com

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