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Special election set to replace Marion County lawmaker charged in covid-relief fraud case

Joe Harding
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
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FR121174 AP
Florida state Rep. Joe Harding listens during a Local Administration and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing in a legislative session on Jan. 13 in Tallahassee, Fla. Harding has been indicted for defrauding a loan program offered by the federal government to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has set the special election dates to replace State Rep. Joe Harding of Marion County.

The special primary for District 24 is March 7. And the special election is May 16.

Harding, a Republican, resigned earlier this month after being indicted on federal charges of wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements. The allegations relate to small business loans for covid relief.

Harding has pleaded not guilty. His trial in Gainesville is scheduled to begin on May 10.

Earlier this year, Harding was the sponsor of the Florida's Parental Rights in Education Act, know by opponents as the Don't Say Gay bill. It bans classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity through third grade and restricts it for older students as well.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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