03/20/2020 -- Harding Joins Presidential Race

March 20th, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, FL — Florida Gov. Joshua Harding is officially joining the 2020 presidential race in an unexpected last-minute bid. Harding, a lifelong Democrat, will be entering the race for the presidency as an Independent.

"I admire and respect President Raymond Praeger. He brings a richness of ideas and experiences and depth of character that makes me proud to be a Democrat. But if the character of the candidates is an issue in every election, this time is about the character of the country," Harding said in an announcement video published online Thursday morning.

His message was largely about unity and the need to build a "better, more sustainable, more inclusive American dream for the next generation." Harding focused on a message of inclusivity on not only race, but SLC-Expressive status.

While a dark horse candidate to come in this late to an already contentious election cycle, there is a theory that Harding could string together a path to the nomination through his neighboring state Georgia and then South Carolina, the first Southern state to vote with a sizable African American electorate.

Harding has a significant backing among the SLC-E minority with his track record as both a war hero and an Expressive. But pundits suggest Harding's Expressive status could hurt him, especially in light of recent tensions regarding pro-expressive terrorism from group like Mazdak and Shedda Dinu.

Harding's late entry comes after he announced almost a year ago that he wouldn't run for the White House, writing in blog post that he worried "the cruelty of our elections process" could harm his family and friends.

Ahead of his announcement, Harding had been making calls to New York and national elected officials and supporters to brief them on his plan, a source with direct knowledge told NPR on Wednesday. New York Sen. Melissa Nicolazzo's gave her vocal support for Harding in a town hall discussion in the New York City Safe Zone the same day.

Harding's announcement comes just a day ahead of the filing deadline for the New Hampshire primary — the critical early state.

However, Harding could face more challenges — especially financial ones — as his late start on the campaign trail means needing to prove his fundraising prowess very quickly.

Harding also starts far back in name recognition, especially compared to other candidates who have been running for months and already participated in several debates leading up to their party's primaries.

Harding was one of the only black governors elected in American history and was Florida's first black governor when he won in 2006; he was reelected in 2010. Harding also served in the Clinton administration as the assistant attorney general for the civil rights division.

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