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Charlie Crist announced Karla Hernández-Mats as his running mate in a rally last Saturday.
Charlie Crist announced Karla Hernández-Mats as his running mate in a rally last Saturday. Photo: Johnny Louis/FilmMagic

Latina teacher Karla Hernández-Mats picked as running mate for Charlie Crist against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

Hernández-Mats will look to change the trajectory of the Florida education system that’s been in limbo under DeSantis.

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On Aug. 27, Florida Democratic Gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist announced his pick for running mate in President of the Miami-Dade County Teachers Union and Latina, Karla Hernández-Mats. Both will take on Governor Ron DeSantis and Lt. Governor Jeanette Núñez in November. 

Crist and his campaign announced the pick during a rally in Miami to kickstart his general election campaign in what was advertised as a “special event.” 

Born and raised in Miami as the daughter of Honduran immigrants, Hernández-Mats has been president of the teachers union since 2016 and prior to that, was an special-needs educator for over 10 years. She won the Teacher of the Year award in her district in 2010. 

“She’s a good choice — Ron DeSantis has doubled down on education. We know it’s going to be a focus in the campaign, and you are bringing in someone who was a teacher and who understands the issue,” an unnamed Democrat close to the decision told CBS News.  

Since 2016, she has been President of United Teachers of Dade, one of the largest teacher’s unions in the Southeast United States. She additionally served on the governance board of Florida’s largest teachers unions, Florida Education Association. 

Current President of the Florida Education Association, Andrew Spar, who endorsed Crist for governor, spoke on Hernández-Mats’ selection as his running mate. 

“We’re thrilled by Charlie Crist’s choice for his running mate. Karla Hernández-Mats will be a great lieutenant governor of and for all the people of Florida — She’s a mom with two kids in our public schools, a teacher focused on students with special needs, and cares deeply about children, families and communities,” he said. 

Hernández-Mats’ pick means together with Crist, they will make education the forefront of their campaign against DeSantis, who has doubled-down on his policies aimed at the LGBTQ+ youth community and affecting all public schools in the state. He has overly inserted himself in efforts to completely transform the education system. In addition to the laws and policies, DeSantis has also asserted influence in local school board races, which by law is a nonpartisan act. 

As could be expected, Republicans also slammed Crist’s selection as “tone deaf.”

“Somehow, he thinks picking a union boss who once compared parents to armed monsters will help him with the voters in Florida,” said Evan Power, an official with the Republican Party of Florida. 

For Democrats and the education system in Florida, Hernández-Mats’ brings some ray of hope if they are able to successfully upset DeSantis, who looks towards a presidential bid in 2024. During his announcement, Crist described Hernández-Mats as “caring, loving, empathic, compassionate.” 

“That’s what we don’t have in the governor’s office right now, and that’s what you deserve to have in the governor’s office,” he continued. 

Hernández-Mats has served three terms as President of United Teachers for Dade (UTD) and is a product of the Miami-Dade School District. She received her Bachelors in Emotionally-Handicapped Education from Florida International University and later, her Masters in Business Administration from St. Thomas University. Before becoming president of UTD, she first ran a successful campaign to become its treasurer. 

In addition to being an educator, she has also advocated and won on behalf of teachers and teacher rights overall. This includes during the 2018 midterm elections, she was one of many vocal leaders in advocating for Referendum 362, which raised property taxes for homeowners in Miami-Dade that would lead to higher raises for teachers as well as being able to hire a security officer for every school campus. 

She has also advocated against the use of public school money going to charter schools, which led to a victory that was slightly tainted after a DeSantis legislation passed in April, 2019, that required school districts to share referendum money with charter schools. 

She has also fought and protested for DACA rights and was even arrested during a protest for DACA on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. 

“My mom and dad taught me the value of hard work and the opportunity that it brings — He worked hard his whole life and taught me to do the same, and I follow his example. It's called 'the American dream,'" Hernández-Mats told the crowd on Saturday.

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