Sen. Blaise Ingoglia has always presented himself as a proud conservative. He has worked for deregulation and against illegal immigration, backed measures like E-Verify, and served as a campaign spokesman for both Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump.
Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican, stepped up the rhetoric in February, proposing a bill that would “immediately cancel the filings of a political party … if the party’s platform has previously advocated for, or been in support of, slavery or involuntary servitude.”
His bill (SB 1248) targeted the Democratic Party, which either supported or tolerated slavery before the Civil War. Had it passed, Florida’s Democrats would have been notified that their registration had been changed to No Party Affiliation.
The “Ultimate Cancel Act,” as Ingoglia nicknamed his bill, went nowhere last Legislative Session, of course. But its sponsor’s message to Democrats had been made.
“The rules they put forth are, it doesn’t matter what you did today,” Ingoglia said. “It doesn’t matter how you’ve acted the past couple of years or how you say you are going to act in the future. What determines if you get canceled is something that you did before. And it’s unequivocal and it’s absolute.”
Then on Nov. 27, just weeks ahead of next year’s Session, he introduced a proposal to amend the state’s constitution to prohibit reparations for descendants of slaves. Not that any such action is pending or being considered. He wanted to vitiate reparations, which he sees as improbable and unproductive, tantamount to buying votes.
Under the proposal (SJR 582), “The state, a county, a municipality, or any other political subdivision may not pay compensation in the form of reparations to an individual who is a descendant of an enslaved individual who lived in the United States before Dec. 6, 1865.”
“I want to take it out of the arsenal of the race baiters,” Ingoglia said.
The question is: Why? Yes, Ingoglia has campaigned on “standing up to the Woke Mob,” as his website declares. But how does someone who has also run on plenty of benign issues like clean water and tax cuts now take increasingly inflammatory positions around race?
To begin to answer that question is to go back at least a decade or more.
Ingoglia, a New York City native, moved to Spring Hill in his mid-20s and founded a construction company. He quickly got involved in GOP politics. He won a seat in the Florida House in 2014, and was Chair of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) in 2015.
Along the way, he believed in making connections, especially with minorities. “Just showing up,” he said. “Just letting them know that we’re Republicans, we may not be of the same political persuasion, but we care about your communities.”
Some of his peers in the party harbored racist sentiments, Ingoglia said. He remembers one day in particular, when he was among those manning a tent at an event. At the time he was also dating Julie, who is now his wife. Her three children are of Dominican heritage and dark-skinned.
As those kids started to enter the tent, Ingoglia recalled, a woman also working the tent remarked, “Well, look at these little n*****s.”
The comment stung Ingoglia, who has not publicly mentioned his stepchildren’s race before. He resolved to drive any hateful element out of the Florida GOP. He delegated to people he could trust and froze out the few he could not. Those people got the message and left, he said.
Ingoglia describes his continued support of minorities as both personal and political, as one and the same with the Republican Party. He served with the RPOF’s first Black Vice Chair in Michael Barnett — who is now a Palm Beach County Commissioner — and a Hispanic Communications Director. The Twitter account he started in 2015, Somos GOP Florida (@SomosGOP), still fields Spanish and English posts interchangeably on the platform, now called X.
Ingoglia directed a sizable check from the party to a Black Chamber of Commerce in the Orlando area. The members thanked him at halftime of an Orlando Magic game.
He also lent support to Sen. Darryl Rouson and Rep. Kionne McGhee, who co-sponsored legislation creating the Florida Slavery Memorial. The memorial honoring victims of slavery will sit alongside the Florida Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Florida Museum of History in a four-block stretch of the Capitol grounds that is being renovated. Initially blocked by one Republican Senator, Gov. Rick Scott signed the memorial legislation in 2018.
All of those things, as Ingoglia frames the story, contributed to harmonious conditions with Black Democrats in the House. They knew about his biracial kids, his antiracist stance in Hernando and his long-standing support for minority Chambers of Commerce. He often finished off workdays at a Tallahassee bar, continuing discussions with friends and foes alike.
That all changed with his support of a voting rights bill (SB 90) signed by Gov. DeSantis on May 6, 2021. The bill, widely seen as part of a retaliatory effort by Trump allies, added steps for voting by mail and instituted numerous other provision.
It created an Office of Election Crimes and Security that reports to the Governor; increased penalties for some election crimes; and effectively reduced the hours that voters could leave ballots at drop boxes by requiring that election workers physically monitor them at all times regardless of surveillance cameras already in place.
Critics assailed SB 90 as a thinly veiled mechanism to make voting harder, especially for the poor and the elderly. A consortium of activist groups filed suit. In March 2022, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker halted the new law, which he called discriminatory.
The debate raged on in the House, where Ingoglia’s time was ending due to term limits. Only now, the tenor of his disagreements with political foes had changed.
“In the debate over SB 90,” he said, “my friends — and I considered them my friends, the people I hung out with after work and had drinks and cigars with — proceeded to call me a racist while we were debating it … with me standing there.”
To his way of thinking, these Democrats knew he was not racist but were calling him a racist “only for political gain.” And that, to him, was unforgivable.
Ingoglia, who had meanwhile been running for the state Senate, said to himself: “Since you did this, now every chance I get I’m going to bring up the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party when it comes to slavery.”
In April, a federal appeals court reversed the lower court’s ruling. SB 90 was back in action. Sen. Ingoglia was not finished, however.
His first foray was the Ultimate Cancel Act to dissolve the Democratic Party over its past alliance with slavery. While that was more poetic expression than legitimate legislative act, the anti-reparations bill at least addresses something other people are considering.
He has no objections to private organizations giving money to descendants of slaves, as some churches have, or redressing any other wrong, as people do every day in civil courts.
“That’s not what we’re talking about,” he said. “We’re talking about people opening up the wounds of hundreds of years past to score political points promising something that they know is unlikely to come. Dangling the prospect of money in front of them is a form of vote buying. And when you’re doing that, you’re not talking about things that are historically plaguing Black and Brown communities.”
If the House and Senate were to adopt SJR 582, the resolution Ingoglia authored, a proposed amendment to the state constitution would need to be approved by 60% of voters.