State Rep. Joe Harding resigns

Joe Harding

Home » Government
Posted December 8, 2022 | By Jennifer Hunt Murty

Joe Harding, an Ocala Republican representing District 24 resigned following a prior announcement a day earlier that he’d been indicted for fraud related to a Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and planned to continue to serve in his capacity as house representative.

Harding was recently reelected without opposition to his second term. District 24 encompasses the central SW quadrant of the county.

Marion County Supervisor of Elections, Wesley Wilcox, indicated that a special election would likely be ordered by the Secretary of State- but when that election would take place would be at the direction of the secretary of state.

Wilcox confirmed that special elections generally follow a similar timeline as regular elections-eleven weeks for the primary and eleven weeks for the general election.

Wilcox told the Gazette that the timing of that special election would be coordinated with his office from the state.

Since republicans have a super majority in the Florida House, filling the seat might not be an immediate priority.

In the news release announcing his resignation, Harding wrote, “When I decided to run in in 2019 for the Florida House, I did so for two simple reasons: I love people, and I love Florida. Today, I am resigning from my position for the same two reasons: I love people, and I love Florida. I believe in Floridians and want what is best for them, and I believe their leaders need not be encumbered by distractions that are mine alone.”

According to a grand jury’s indictment, Harding applied for EIDL for two entities, The Vak Shack, Inc., an agricultural supply business in Williston, and Harding Farms, LLC., a 46-acre horse and cattle facility in Williston.

The indictment alleges that Harding falsely represented the number of employees and gross revenues for both entities and claimed they were active in 2019 and 2020 when they were not, and that Harding supported the false claims with “fraudulently created bank statements.”

Prosecutors allege that the business entities had been dormant from May 2017 through Dec. 16, 2020 and therefore had no gross revenues for the 12 months prior to the COVID-19 disaster, a necessary element of qualifying for the EIDL.

Federal prosecutors are seeking a criminal conviction as well as forfeiture of any property, real and personal, derived from the proceeds of the loan transaction.

In today’s press release announcing his resignation, Harding thanked his family for their support and sent word to his supportive colleagues.

“To my many colleagues that have reached out to me, including many I have deep policy disagreements with, thank you. It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve alongside you for the past two years. I will always be here for you, regardless of whether you have an R or D behind your name. I love you. Keep making Florida special and never forget where you came from and who you represent,” Harding wrote.



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