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Diploma-less Candidate Pressured To Drop Out Of State House Race

Melissa Howard

Updated 8/14 at 9:42 a.m.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is reporting State House candidate Melissa Howard admitted Monday that she lied about having a degree from Ohio's Miami University.  She then apologized and declared she intends to stay in a race that has drawn national attention after it came out she was displaying a fake diploma and had gone to great lengths to deceive people about her college credentials.

“I would like to apologize to my family and my supporters for this situation,” Howard said in a statement. “It was not my intent to deceive or mislead anyone. I made a mistake in saying that I completed my degree. What I did was wrong and set a bad example for someone seeking public service. I am staying in the race and intend to win and lead by example from now on.”
Howard did not address the question about how she obtained a diploma stating she has a degree in marketing from Miami University, a degree the school doesn’t even offer. Howard’s admission means there is now no question the diploma is a fake, but it’s unclear who forged the document.

Original Story posted Monday, Aug. 13:

Pressure is building for the candidate running for a state House seat in Manatee and Sarasota counties to drop out of the race. It's all because of a diploma that may not be legitimate.

Melissa Howard, a Republican candidate for House District 73, has come under attack after saying she graduated from a university that doesn't even offer the degree she claims to have received. Zac Anderson, a reporter for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, says a Miami University of Ohio attorney told him her diploma Howard displayed online does not appear to be a real sheepskin.
Anderson says he hasn't heard back from Howard, but there's no indication she will drop out of the race.

"This is an issue that could really hurt her campaign substantially," Anderson said. "I know her opponent is really going to hit her hard with this in the final weeks. We'll see what happens. I don't know if she was able to survive this, I'm not sure that it wouldn't be something that she could potentially get elected, having this in her background."

Anderson says because absentee ballots have already been sent out and Mitchell was leading in some polls, she might still have a good chance during the August 28th Republican primary against Sarasota attorney Tommy Gregory.

The winner of the primary would take on Democrat Liv Coleman in what has been a Republican-leaning seat.

The Bradenton Herald is reporting If the diploma was not real, it could be a crime in the state of Florida:

Florida statute 817.566 states, “Any person who, with intent to defraud, misrepresents his or her association with, or academic standing or other progress at, any postsecondary educational institution by falsely making, altering, simulating, or forging a document, degree, certificate, diploma, award, record, letter, transcript, form, or other paper; or any person who causes or procures such a misrepresentation; or any person who utters and publishes or otherwise represents such a document, degree, certificate, diploma, award, record, letter, transcript, form, or other paper as true, knowing it to be false, is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.”


Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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