Florida Secretary Of State Mike Ertel is out of a high-paying job. That’s because photos surfaced of Ertel dressed in blackface at a party in 2005.
Ertel was pretending to be a Black female Hurricane Katrina victim.
At least 1,800 people lost their lives during the devastating 2005 storm, which nearly destroyed New Orleans and surrounding coastal areas.
Ertel had been on the job just two weeks.
“There’s nothing I can say,” Ertel said when reached by the Tallahassee Democrat, which unearthed the photos. Ertel promptly resigned and released this statement:
“I am submitting my resignation as Florida secretary of state effective immediately,” he wrote. “It has been an honor to serve you and the voters of Florida.”
Governor Ron Desantis, who appointed Ertel, said he didn’t want to “get mired” into what he termed “side controversies”, poiting out that he thought Ertel had done “a lot of good work” and was sorry for what happened.
What’s unclear is if Ertel is sorry for taking the photo, getting exposed, or both.
“It’s unfortunate. I think he’s done a lot of good work,” DeSantis said, adding that he accepted the resignation because “I don’t want to get mired into kind of side controversies, and so I felt it was best to just accept the resignation and move on.”
Desantis himself was caught up in a racial controversy during his 2018 campaign for governor after he urged voters to avoid “monkeying up” the state by electing Democrat Andrew Gillum governor: Gillum is African-American. Desantis’ comment was widely criticized as racist.
Ertel’s resignation comes amid the backdrop over the ongoing battle over felon voting rights, which Ertel, as chief elections officer in the state, had a crucial role in.
Republican legislators are seeking to delay the implementation of Amendment 4, which voters passed by 64% in November. The amendment restores the right to vote to former felons, hundreds of thousands of whom are Black.
Ertel was previously given accolades for his efforts to improve voting access, and was even awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. award by the xity of Longwood for for registering voters. At the time, Ertel was Seminole county Supervisor of Elections.