Michael Ertel has resigned as Florida’s new Secretary of State after a local newspaper published photos it says show him in blackface “posing as a Hurricane Katrina victim” at a Halloween party. You can see the disturbing pictures later in this article.
The photos were published by the Tallahassee Democrat on January 24, 2019. You can read the newspaper’s article and see the photos it published in full here. Ertel was appointed Secretary of State by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Here’s what you need to know about the blackface photos and Mike Ertel’s background:
1. The Photos Were Taken Two Months After the Hurricane Katrina Tragedy, the Newspaper Reports
The Democrat reports that the photos date to 2005. The newspaper reported that it texted the photos to Ertel before running the story, and he “identified himself as the white man in blackface and red lipstick, wearing earrings and a New Orleans Saints bandanna, and falsies under a purple T-shirt that had ‘Katrina Victim’ written on it.”
Here’s another photo that the newspaper ran:
“There’s nothing I can say,” the newspaper reported that he said.
Ertel was already Seminole County supervisor of elections at the time, according to the newspaper. Ertel is 49-years-old and is a Republican. An old biography of Ertel on eac.gov reports that he previously “has been awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. award by the City of Longwood.”
2. Ertel Was an Elections Supervisor & Public Relations Official Before Becoming Secretary of State
Ertel’s career was forged in election supervision. Ertel’s LinkedIn page says he served as Seminole County Supervisor of Elections for 14 years. Before that, he was a public relations consultant in private practice for three years and a public relations officer for CIBC Marketplace Bank for two years. He also served as a public relations officer for Quest, Inc., and for Seminole County and Orange County government.
Under education, his LinkedIn page lists American University, the Center for Democracy and Election Management, and a mini-MBA from Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College. He also states that he went to Defense Information School for journalism, to University of Maryland University College, and to West Virginia University, for fundamentals of Forensic Questioned Documents.
Ertel’s website states the following: “I haven’t always been an elections administrator. Those who knew me at 18 never would have guessed the path I took. But part of what makes me such a dedicated defender of our privilege of voting is knowing that throughout the trials of my life, there’s been one constant earthly asset always with me: the power of my one vote. It is the freedom of that gift by our forefathers that drives my passion to protect it for you, your family, and our shared future.”
According to the Miami Herald, DeSantis appointed Ertel to the secretary of state position, which oversees elections and “also includes the Division of Corporations, the Division of Cultural Affairs, the Division of Historical Resources and the Division of Library and Information Services.”
When he was appointed as secretary of state, Ertel wrote on Facebook, “Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis has a bold vision for Florida. I am proud to be a part of his team!” He was only named secretary of state on December 28, 2018. His Facebook page was deleted shortly after the blackface story broke.
3. Ertel Served in the U.S. Army & Was a Journalist
According to Ertel’s LinkedIn page, he served in public affairs for the U.S. Army for eight years. He was on active duty from April 1990 through November 1996, and he also served for a year in the Florida National Guard.
He wrote on his website, that he “was thankful for the freedom of opportunity our America provided me. Yet, housing wasn’t the end game for me when it came to achieving my version of the American Dream. At 19 I enlisted in the U.S. Army.”
On Linkedin, he says that he also worked as “a radio personality and an award-winning writer and journalist.”
Ertel spent “eight years in the U.S. Army with stints including in the U.S., Panama, Berlin, and the Balkans. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation medal w/OLC, Army Achievement Medal w/2OLC, National Defense Service Medal, and the Expert Marksmanship Badge, among others,” the page reads. “After the Army, he was in the public affairs field, including serving as Seminole County government’s first public information professional, as the director of public relations for a 185-location bank, and conducting post-disaster public relations for Visit Florida, Florida’s tourism marketing agency.”
A biography of Ertel on eac.gov said that he was “a homegrown elected official, attending Red Bug, Sterling Park and English Estates elementary, Tuskawilla middle, Lake Howell high and the University of Maryland University College.”
The bio continues, “Ertel completed the Crummer mini-MBA at Rollins College in 2015. He has completed the Harvard crisis communications module How to Deal with an Angry Public and the American University Election Management Institute. In an effort to detect absentee fraud, in 2011 he became Florida’s first elections official to complete a course from West Virginia University on forensic document examination. Ertel has been awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. award by the City of Longwood and was honored by the Seminole County Bar Association with their inaugural Thomas Jefferson Award. For the past three years he has been voted Best Elected Official by the readers of The Sanford Herald. In 2013, Orlando Life magazine named him the region’s best elected official.”
His LinkedIn page further states, “Mike is a highly sought expert on elections issues, speaking to state, national and international election organizations. He has testified before a United States Senate subcommittee as well as the State of Texas’ legislature and the National Conference of State Legislatures on voter identification. He has spoken about election law to conventions of the American Bar Association and the American Association of Political Consultants. Ertel was a featured speaker on military voting rights at the Heritage Foundation, and was the only U.S. representative at the International Electoral Affairs Symposium in London, where he facilitated the discussion on rebuilding voter trust. Ertel has been featured internationally on Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, and the U.K. Daily Mail.”
4. Ertel Is Married to a Political Commentator & Collects Antique Radios
According to the biography of Ertel, he’s married to wife Michelle, and the couple has two adult children and two dogs. “In his spare time, Mike is an active member of the VFW, enjoys racquetball, American electoral history, the music of the Rat Pack and tinkering with his collection of antique radios,” the bio reads.
On his website, Ertel says his wife is his “lodestar.” You can see Michelle Ertel’s website here.
“I think without exception, the number one priority in my life is making my wife happy, and helping our children to experience their own American Dream.,” he wrote. “Michelle is more than my spouse and more than a life partner — she’s my earthly lodestar.”
FloridaPolitics.com described Michelle Ertel as “a political commentator and government affairs consultant” who “has been named committee director for BusinessForce, a group that is an independent, pro-business public voice of Central Florida.”
The website quoted Michelle Ertel as saying, “When government’s focus is on the well-being of its business community, citizens prosper. Candidates who value a warm business climate have long looked to BusinessForce for guidance and I am elated to now be part of the process.”
According to the article, Michelle “Ertel has been a political analyst and government relations consultant and frequent commentator appearing in Central Florida media including Spectrum News 13, WOFL Fox 35, 90.7 WMFE and the Orlando Sentinel.”
5. Ertel Was Homeless as a Youth
Ertel’s website describes all he has overcome throughout the years, saying he was homeless as a youth.
“Imagining the typical homeless person in America is a practice in futility. As an 18-year-old, I was homeless. I had a job, parents and other family who loved me, and yet through my own stubborn desire to make it without assistance, I found myself homeless. For three months I worked the third shift at a gas station at night, and walked the streets of my hometown during the day looking for a place to sleep,” he wrote.
Both Mike Ertel and Michelle Ertel have deleted their Twitter accounts.