Florida Governor Replaces Appointee Ousted Over Blackface Photos

(Bloomberg) -- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis named Laurel Lee to become his new secretary of state, moving quickly to fill the void left by the resignation last week of Michael Ertel, who quit when photos emerged showing him in blackface at a Halloween party.

Lee, who assumes responsibility for election oversight in America’s biggest swing state, was a circuit court judge in Hillsborough County, according to an emailed statement from the governor’s office.

The episode with her predecessor cast a pall on an otherwise positive start for the Republican governor, who had begun to win bipartisan praise for efforts on the environment and medical marijuana, among others. He has also been part of team of Florida politicians, led by Senator Marco Rubio, who have exerted influence on White House policy toward Venezuela. South Florida is a major center for the Venezuelan diaspora.

Photos obtained and published by the Tallahassee Democrat showed Ertel, now 49, masquerading in blackface as a victim of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Reached for comment, he told the Democrat: "There’s nothing I can say."

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