Florida secretary of state resigns over blackface photos

By Clyde Hughes

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel resigned Thursday after photos emerged showing him dressed in blackface at a Halloween party 14 years ago.

The Tallahassee Democrat recently obtained the photos of Ertel dressed as a Hurricane Katrina survivor and showed them to Gov. Ron DeSantis' office Thursday, hours before Ertel abruptly resigned, the newspaper reported.


Ertel, 49, was Seminole County's supervisor of elections at the time the pictures were taken. It was two months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and killed more than 1,800 people, while also leaving thousands homeless.

Ertel confirmed it was he in the pictures after the newspaper sent him a copy last week. He was dressed in blackface, red lipstick, earrings, a New Orleans Saints bandana and a purple T-shirt with the words "Katrina victim" written on it.

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"There's nothing I can say," Ertel said.

In a news conference Thursday afternoon, DeSantis said he accepted Ertel's resignation.

"It's unfortunate. I think he's done a lot of good work," DeSantis said. "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 said although the incident happened years ago, "at the same time I want people to be able to lead and not have these things swirling around them."

Officials in Seminole County, just north of Orlando, expressed shock at the photos and sudden resignation.

"That is not the Mike Ertel that I know," Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine told the Orlando Sentinel.

Chris Anderson, who replaced Ertel as Seminole County elections supervisor when he was elevated to the state position this month, was also surprised.

"I was shocked to see these photos," said Anderson, who is African-American. "Personally, I do not believe these pictures are representative of the Mike Ertel I know today. Acts like these are unacceptable, but as we work through issues surrounding race, it is important to understand people can learn and grow from their actions."

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