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Friday, January 27, 2023

DeSantis announces special election dates to replace Ocala Rep. Harding

Governor Ron DeSantis has announced that a special election will be held in March and May to fill the Florida House seat that was vacated by indicted former State Rep. Joseph Harding.

On Monday, DeSantis issued an executive order setting the election dates to fill the vacant seat in House District 24. The primary election will be held on March 7, 2023, and the general election will take place on May 16, 2023.

Harding, who is known for introducing the controversial Parental Rights and Education bill, was indicted by a federal grand jury on allegations of wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements on Wednesday, December 7. The following day, Harding resigned from his seat in the Florida House of Representatives.

State Rep. from Ocala Marion County indicted by federal grand jury
Former State Rep. Joseph Harding, 35, announced his resignation on Thursday, December 8 amid allegations of wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements

The indictment alleges that between December 1, 2020, and March 1, 2021, Harding committed two acts of wire fraud by participating in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration of over $150,000.

In a social media post announcing his resignation, Hardy stated, “It has been a great honor to serve the people of this state and more specifically the people of Levy and Marion Counties. However, due to legal issues that require my complete focus, it is my opinion that now is the time to allow someone else to serve my district.”

A trial for Harding has been scheduled at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 11, 2023, at the United States Courthouse in Gainesville. If convicted, Harding could face the following maximum prison terms for each charge:

  • Wire fraud – 20 years.
  • Money Laundering – 10 years.
  • Making False Statements – 5 years.

An indictment is an allegation by a grand jury that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.