GOP Florida House candidate drops out of race after lying about degree

GOP Florida House candidate drops out of race after lying about degree
© Melissa Howard for Florida House

A Republican candidate running for the GOP nomination in a Florida legislative seat dropped out of the race on Tuesday in light of reports that she lied about graduating from Miami University in Ohio. 

Melissa Howard made the announcement in a text message to The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, just a day after admitting to lying about receiving a degree from the university and faking her diploma. 

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“I have come to the realization that the right thing to do for my community is to withdraw from the race," Howard told The Herald-Tribune. "I will do so today.”

Howard added that she made "a terrible error in judgement" and that she's "thankful for everyone who gave so much toward my success, and I am deeply sorry.”

Florida political news website FLA News Online reported last week that Howard lied about earning a Bachelor of Science in Marketing at Miami University and that a diploma she posted in a photo was fake. 

The Herald-Tribune also confirmed with the university in Ohio that Howard did not graduate. 

Howard, who was running for the GOP nomination to a Sarasota-area state House seat, initially pushed back against the report and accused her Republican primary opponent, Tommy Gregory, of pushing the "lies." 

She later admitted to lying and said on Monday that it was "not [her] intent to deceive or mislead anyone."

She said she would not drop out of the race, though, a position that she reversed on Tuesday. 

Gregory said it was time to "move on" after he spoke to Howard on Tuesday. 

"She apologized for what she did and for the rancor in this campaign and offered her full support for my candidacy," he wrote on Facebook

“I think she did the right thing for the community,” Sarasota GOP Chair Joe Gruters said to The Herald-Tribune. “I think it saved a lot of people a lot of grief and I hope that she finds whatever peace that she needs and moves forward and has a lot of success.

"But we’re glad she’s out of the race and we’re focused on winning in November.”

-Updated 3:58 p.m.