Florida secretary of state resigns after Halloween blackface photos surface

Michael Ertel. (Photo: Florida Department of State)
Caption
Michael Ertel. (Photo: Florida Department of State)

Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel has resigned after photos of him in blackface posing as a victim from Hurricane Katrina surfaced.

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Ertel, 49, was Seminole County Supervisor of Elections when he wore the costume in 2005 at a private Halloween party, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

The photos were shown Thursday morning to newly elected Gov. Ron DeSantis, who appointed Ertel. Hours later, DeSantis accepted Ertel’s resignation.

"It's unfortunate. He's done a lot of good work," DeSantis told the Democrat. "I don't want to get mired in side controversies."

The photo was taken eight months after Ertel was elected supervisor, the Democrat reported. That was about two months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

The photos show Ertel in blackface and a black-haired wig, wearing earrings, a Saints bandana and a purple shirt with the words “Katrina victim” on it.

"There's nothing I can say," Ertel told the Democrat, refusing to further comment.

The 14-year-old photograph is a surprising blemish on a virtually spotless public service career.

Ertel has supported expanding voting rights, making elections more accessible and won international awards for his work to restore voter confidence. He helped monitor the 2006 New Orleans mayoral election and was given a Martin Luther King Jr. award for increasing the number of registered voters by the city of Longwood, Florida, the Democrat reported.

In an email sent around 2 p.m. Ertel wrote:

"I am submitting my resignation as Florida secretary of state effective immediately. It has been an honor to serve you and the voters of Florida."