Sarasota Republican Melissa Howard announced Thursday that she had earned the backing of Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera in her campaign to succeed Rep. Joe Gruters in House District 73.
“Melissa Howard is the business owner, community leader, and conservative champion that will best serve her constituents in District 73. I am pleased to endorse Melissa’s campaign to continue the pro-growth policies that have led to historic economic growth and prosperity in Florida,” Lopez-Cantera said.
Lopez-Cantera is Howard’s biggest endorsement yet. He joins Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who was briefly a candidate for HD 73, in endorsing Howard. Gruters has not issued a formal endorsement yet, though he is serving as treasurer for the Howard campaign.
“I am honored to have the support of Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera,” Howard said. “I will continue working hard to ensure Manatee County residents and business owners have their voices and concerns heard in Tallahassee.”
Howard faces fellow Republican Tommy Gregory in the primary race for HD 73. The seat is open due to Gruters’ run for SD 23, which opened in the wake of U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney’s announcement he would not run for re-election in 2018.
As of May 31, Gregory led the money race with nearly $180,000 raised and $162,775 banked between his campaign and political committee, Friends Of Tommy Gregory. Howard started June with more than $130,000 at the ready, including $100,000 in loans she used to kick-start her campaign in April.
The winner of the Aug. 28 Republican primary will face Democrat Liv Coleman in the Nov. 6 general election.
HD 73 is a Republican stronghold covering parts of Sarasota and Manatee counties.