Melissa Howard, who went to extraordinary lengths to fake a college diploma she didn’t have, has ended her campaign for the Florida House. It comes exactly two weeks before the August 28 primary.
FLA News first reported last week that the National Student Clearinghouse verified that Howard did not have a degree from Miami University in Ohio. The initial story led to one of the crazier chain of events witnessed in Florida politics. Howard apparently flew to her native state of Ohio, and posed with a picture of her holding a diploma from Miami University. Hours after that photo was posted, Miami University confirmed that while Howard attended the university, she didn’t graduate and that the degree she was holding in the photo was a fake.
In a statement first reported by the website Florida Politics, Howard said, “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. I will continue to serve my community and the various causes and charities that I’ve always supported. I will continue to work to improve the lives of other people. I made a terrible error in judgement. I am thankful for everyone who gave so much toward my success, and I am deeply sorry.”
It was only Monday night that Howard acknowledged she had lied but decided to stay in the race. She posted her statement on Facebook and the overwhelmingly negative comments resulted in her pulling down the campaign page.
Howard’s withdraw from the race guarantees that retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Tommy Gregory will be the Republican nominee. The race between Howard and Gregory turned nasty at times with each accusing each other of lies. According to Gregory, the two talked on the phone after Howard’s withdraw. “I just called Melissa Howard a few minutes ago, and we had a great conversation, Gregory said. “She apologized for what she did and for the rancor in this campaign and offered her full support for my candidacy. Now we need to move on, and I will be focused on earning the trust of all the voters of District 73 as I lay out our plan to accelerate job and wage growth, invest in world-class schools, and protect our quality of life.”
Gregory will face Democrat Liv Coleman in the November general election. House district 73 is seen as a safe Republican seat which includes parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties.
What remains unknown in this week-long saga is why Howard would go to such great lengths to claim a college degree she didn’t earn. By all accounts she has a successful business career and is heavily involved in civic activities in Manatee County. The irony of it all, no college degree is required to serve in the Florida House of Representatives.