Howard Throws in Towel After Week of Scandal

Politics

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY AUG 15, 2018

A credential scandal that attracted national attention drew to an abrupt close on Tuesday when Republican Melissa Howard announced an end to her state House candidacy. “I have come to the realization that the right thing to do for my community is to withdraw from the race,” Howard said in a statement distributed to media outlets. “I made a terrible error in judgment. I am thankful for everyone who gave so much toward my success, and I am deeply sorry.”

The end less than a week after critics questioned if Howard indeed graduated from Miami University in Ohio. She seemed to put that question to bed last Friday when she made a trip to Ohio and posted pictures of her transcripts and a framed college degree. But general counsel for Miami University called the voracity of the degree into question.

As recently as yesterday, Howard apologized for claiming to have finished her degree at Miami Univeristy in Ohio, but said she intended to continue in her race. “It was not my intent to deceive or mislead anyone,” she said in a statement yesterday. “I made a mistake in saying that I completed my degree.”

Tommy Gregory, her Republican opponent, had heavily criticized her choice to remain in the contest, but said he spoke to her Tuesday about her ultimate decision to withdraw. “She apologized for what she did and for the rancor in this campaign and offered her full support for my candidacy,” he said. “Melissa worked hard in this race. I wish her all the best and I’m sure she will continue to do things in the community through her non-profit work. Now we need to move on.”

While Howard’s name remains on the ballot, once she formally withdraws with the Division of Elections votes for her will be discarded. That means Gregory will automatically secure the Republican nomination, continuing to a general election matchup against Democrat Liv Coleman on Nov. 6.

Party leaders welcomes Howard’s decision to leave the race. "She made the right decision and saved the community and the party any additional heartache," said Joe Gruters, Howard's treasurer and chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota. "I hope she gets whatever help she needs. We wish her success moving forward and look forward to supporting Tommy Gregory."

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