In the days of perpetual outrage, where everyone seems to be under constant scrutiny, everything you say or do will be held against you. Where social media posts can cost you your livelihood, cultural appropriation can shame you from the public square, and being confronted with a drumming Native American (who stole valor like Winona Ryder in a Beverly Hills Saks Fifth Avenue) can cost you your job, every action you engage in can be used against you in a court of public opinion.
Once in a rare case of a Blue Lunar eclipse, this may actually be justified. Especially if you are a public servant. It’s not the best look to dress in Halloween garb depicting Hurricane victims, especially just months after the event took place. Can we say, too soon?
Michael Ertel, the newly appointed Secretary of State of Gov. Ron DeSantis, has resigned after photos emerged of him posing as a Hurricane Katrina victim in blackface at a private Halloween party 14 years ago.
The photos obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat were shown to the Governor’s Office on Thursday morning. Hours later it issued a statement.
“The governor accepted Secretary Ertel’s resignation,” the Governor’s Office said.
Ertel gave a presentation Thursday morning on election litigation before a House subcommittee. He submitted his resignation in an email around 2 p.m.
“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.”
The photo was taken in 2005, eight months after Ertel was appointed Seminole County supervisor of elections and two months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
DeSantis named Ertel on Dec. 28 to replace Ken Detzner, who served as former Gov. Rick Scott’s Secretary of State since 2012.
The photos are the sole blemish on a seemingly spotless public career, highlighted by a record of increasing voter registration and making the elections office more accessible to the public.
Ertel began serving as supervisor of elections for Seminole County on Feb. 5, 2005, when Gov. Jeb Bush named him to replace Dennis Joyner, who stepped down for health reasons.
He ran against Democratic Party activist Marian Williams in 2006, beating her by 59 percent. He was subsequently re-elected without opposition. That same year he participated in monitoring the New Orleans mayoral election.
Ertel has a long record of expanding voting rights and registering people to vote. The city of Longwood gave him a Martin Luther King Jr. award for registering voters. In 2012, Ertel spoke out against Scott’s purge of so-called non-citizens from the voter rolls, saying many of those who were purged were actually eligible voters.
Prior to his time in public office, Ertel was in public relations, and was the first professional public affairs spokesman for Seminole County. After the 2004 hurricanes hit Florida, Ertel provided post-disaster media relations for Visit Florida.
You may have wanted to revisit the whole “Public Relations” gig when thinking about making this your Halloween costume of choice.