Crist Picks Teacher’s Union Boss As Running Mate, Leaning in on Education
- Democrat Charlie Crist named teachers union boss Carla Hernandez-Mats as running mate.
- Crist is running against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has made education one of his top priorities.
- The debate will revolve around curriculum and school policies.
Hialeah, Fla. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist has picked a teachers union boss as his running mate to defeat Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis ), a decision that puts education front and center for one of the nation’s most talked about races.
Crist announced Saturday that he had selected Karla Hernández-Mats, who has served as president of the Dade United Teachers Association since 2016, to run. Hernández-Mats, a former middle school special education teacher who was named Florida’s “Teacher of the Year” in 2010, is the daughter of immigrants from Honduras.
As for DeSantis, he sees his education policies as one of his strongest reasons for re-election. The governor ignored federal health officials and teachers’ unions when he decided in the fall of 2020 to reopen schools during the pandemic.
Despite months of backlash against him, many blue states eventually followed suit, arguing that school closures did more harm than good. Reports of conflict over school reopenings, and DeSantis’ ability to regularly make national headlines, have led many to speculate that he will run for president in 2024.
Hernández-Mats has previously clashed with DeSantis and defied him by imposing a mask-wearing rule in schools. She opposed the reopening of schools and said schools should remain virtual. Asked about her position on Saturday, Hernandez-Mats told a news conference with reporters that she was not wrong and that the reopening of schools had nothing to do with the increase in COVID-19 deaths.
“We have always supported opening our schools,” she said. “We just want to make sure our schools are open with the right measures so we can protect our kids and the people who work with kids every day.”
— Karla Hernandez (@KarlaforFlorida) October 8, 2020
In his speech Saturday, Christ described Hernandez-Mats as “empathetic and compassionate” qualities he said were not found in his Republican opponents. Throughout the campaign, Christ has established himself as a seasoned lawmaker and unifier.
Anna Fusco, head of the Broward teachers’ union, told Insider that Hernandez-Matz was “the best choice he could have made,” calling her “a strong defender of everyone’s rights.” , strong woman”.
“It sends a message to DeSantis that you’re wrong and we’re going to correct it again,” she said. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. And education is the foundation, the core of our country, our Florida, so it’s a give-way message. We’re in, we’re winning, we’re going to make Florida like it was.
In a statement, the RNC compared Hernandez to Randy Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who lobbied to delay school reopenings.
RNC spokeswoman Julia Friedland called Hernández-Mats “a perfect fit for the unpopular anti-parental movement targeting Lover Crist”.
The RNC also called Crist a “lockdown lover” in an email to reporters.
DeSantis will keep current Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez running for re-election. Nuñez is a former state legislator who is also fluent in Spanish and English.
During his tenure, DeSantis fomented culture war issues by restricting school curricula or practices around race, gender and sexual orientation. He preaches the term “parental rights” and advocates for parents to be more aware of how schools choose textbooks and courses.
“He’s focused on the culture wars and banned books, which doesn’t do our kids any favors,” Florida Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz told Insider in an interview.
But there are some signs of support for DeSantis’ stance on education. This year DeSantis took the unprecedented step of endorsing 30 candidates for school board, and 25 of them were either elected or advanced during Tuesday’s primary — a sign that the campaign views as evidence that people embrace the governor’s education agenda.
Hernandez-Matz told reporters Saturday that voters who back candidates for the DeSantis school board “need more education” about the real problems with schools in Florida.
Hernández-Mats promises to ‘restore decency and respect’
If elected, Crist has pledged to make the position of education commissioner an elected position, to increase teacher pay, and to declare a teacher shortage emergency at a time when the state has a 9,000-person teacher shortage, among other commitments.
Florida’s average teacher salary ranks 48th in the nation, according to The National Education Association, though state lawmakers and DeSantis have increased their salaries and gave teachers bonuses over the past year.
In her acceptance speech on Saturday, Hernandez-Matz didn’t hesitate to slam DeSantis.
“Are you tired of the culture wars and extremists dominating what we say and do?” she asked her supporters at the rally, oscillating between English and Spanish. “Are you tired of politicians like authoritarians trying to tear apart our democracy? That’s why we’re here today: to beat Ron DeSantis and bring decency and respect back to Florida. “
Crist announced his running mate at Hialeah Middle School, where Hernández-Mats teaches. Hialeah is a city in Miami-Dade County with a Hispanic majority and the highest percentage of Cuban and Cuban-American residents of any other city in the United States.
Hernández-Mats, 42, has not held an elected office before.she faced criticism 2016 Tweets She said in the letter that many in Cuba are mourning the death of Cuban communist dictator Fidel Castro.
When asked to explain Saturday’s statement, Hernández-Mats called on Nuñez for her recent comments about how Florida should send immigrants to Delaware.
“The reality is that when Fidel Castro died, I was on the street with pots and pans, banging on them, and celebrating with my other colleagues and neighbors,” Hernandez-Matz Say.
Christ, a congressman whose constituency includes St. Petersburg, is bidding for his old post. He served as Florida Governor, Republican from 2007 to 2011, and Florida Commissioner of Education in 2000.
“We want the people of Florida to be truly free because, under DeSantis, he said, ‘We’re the freest state in the country,'” Crist said. “Obviously if you’re a woman who wants a choice, or an African-American who wants the right to vote, or an older person who wants to be able to vote by mail.”
Hernández-Mats told reporters she was “proud” and “humbling” that Crist had chosen her and said she was “ready to work.”
“It’s part of the American dream,” she said. “I’m a first-generation American. You know, my parents were immigrants and thought these opportunities were available to me, a middle school teacher, and that’s what America is all about.”