Charlie Crist chooses a teacher and union leader as his running mate

TALLAHASSEE — Charlie Crist, the democratic challenge Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, introduced the leader of the largest teachers’ union in the Southeast as a candidate for lieutenant governor on Saturday morning at a rally at Hialeah School where she taught for a decade.

Karla Hernández-Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade, joined her running mate at the rally at Hialeah Middle School where he described her as “empathetic and compassionate” — qualities, Crist added, that “we don’t have. in the governor’s office now.”

Hernández greeted cheers in Spanish from “my nice” “my people”, taking the stage and quickly trained his focus on the Republican Governor.

“We are here today to defeat Ron DeSantis and bring decency and respect back to the State of Florida,” Hernández said, emphasizing his support for the defense of abortion rights, access to the vote and to inclusion, which Democrats have made a theme of this year’s contests.

“It’s all on the ballot in November,” concluded Hernández, who is a first-generation Miami native of Honduran descent.

The announcement was broadcast live on Facebook and Twitter.

Prior to leading the Miami-Dade Teachers Union, she was named Teacher of the Year at Hialeah Middle School in 2010 for her work with children with special needs. She has two children in public school.

With DeSantis advancing conservative school policies that limit discussion of race, gender and sexual orientation, while campaigning to oust school board members who have challenged him, Hernández’s selection will further elevate the issue. education in the race for governor.

“By choosing Karla Hernández, Crist is making it clear that he values ​​Florida students and respects our educators,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union.

Republicans fired Hernández for being a labor leader who resisted DeSantis’ push to reopen schools during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Julia Friedland called it “the perfect fit for lockdown enthusiast Crist’s unpopular, anti-parent campaign.”

Like most running mates, Hernández provides a stark contrast to the 66-year-old Crist, bringing a balance of gender, ethnicity and experience to the Democratic ticket.

A first-time political candidate, Hernández will be paired with a three-term Democratic congressman from St. Petersburg, who served as Republican governor from 2007 to 2011, and is now in his seventh statewide bid. .

Hernández, however, made her first foray into the gubernatorial race last month, when she was one of a handful of supporters the Crist campaign made available to reporters following her lone debate. televised with her main opponent Nikki Fried.

The campaign debut took place last month

When asked then if Crist was asked to nominate a running mate who is a person of color, a woman, or from the LGBTQ community, Hernández said he didn’t need any prompting to include diversity in his campaign and, if he wins in November, his administration.

“He fully understands that diversity is key; that’s important,” she said. “We know that not only is he talking about unity, but he really wants to represent the people of Florida. He knows that not everyone in Florida is like him.

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A source close to the campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Hernández was not chosen solely to promote education issues. But instead, the source said, he will be asked to step up to defend abortion rights, voting access and LBGTQ equity in the upcoming campaign.

Hernández has served as the head of the Miami-Dade teachers’ union since 2016. Two years later, she helped lead a county election measure that resulted in overwhelming voter support for what is considered the largest increase history salary for Miami-Dade teachers.

Still, Hernández might not be an eye-catching choice. On the state stage, she was low-key enough that DeSantis’ War Room social media team initially could only attack her for a few Twitter posts.

One was an October 2021 tweet in which she compared some parents attending school board meetings to Halloween freaks tricking or treating at a door.

“For all of you who follow school board meetings, you know the madness is real,” she posted. “God be with us.”

But as DeSantis’ attack team continued to dig into his social media history, they posted more on Twitter attacking him as a “union boss” and for criticizing the governor’s request to open prisons. schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Saturday morning, the DeSantis campaign had a lighted sign outside Hialeah High School in an attempt to link the politics of Crist’s running mate and United Teachers of Dade to Fidel Castro and the former Soviet Union.

But the selection also drew praise from National Education Association president Becky Pringle.

“By choosing Karla Hernández as his running mate, Charlie Crist continues to demonstrate his respect for Florida educators as the professionals that they are,” Pringle said. “And he knows that our teachers and education support professionals…should have a seat at the table when education policy is being developed.”

While DeSantis is sitting on more than $130 million for his re-election bid — and Crist’s campaign account is nearly empty after his primary win, had received $500,000 from the American Federation of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union in the country.

Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade, will be named Democrat Charlie Crist's running mate for the gubernatorial race.

bypassed fried

Fried, the state’s agriculture commissioner, whom Crist easily beat in Tuesday’s primary, had said she was open to joining the ticket as a general election running mate. In a first night interview with NBC-News, she said defeating DeSantis was the priority.

“So I’ll do everything in my power, including being on Charlie’s ticket, to make sure that happens in November,” she said.

But Fried, who campaigned aggressively against Crist, casting doubt on his support for abortion rights, may have also hurt his chances by losing 25% to the candidate, and even bigger margins in the Democratic homes in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. .

In his bid for a second term, DeSantis is sticking with Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez. The Miami native — a fluent Spanish-speaking former state legislator, provided some gender, ethnicity and region balance to DeSantis during his 2018 run for governor.

She also adheres to the DeSantis policy. Just last week, she came under fire for telling Miami Spanish Radio that undocumented immigrants arriving in Florida, including Cubans, should be bused to the state of Delaware, President Biden .

Drawing heat for the comment, Nuñez said Democrats were simply trying to inflame the issue in an effort to win Hispanic votes. DeSantis also pushed back, denying that she meant busing Cuban arrivals, adding that the question was moot, since he had set aside plans to bus anyone into Delaware.

The running mates must remain discreet

The running mates, however, aren’t meant to be controversial.

DeSantis’ predecessor, Governor Rick Scott, now a U.S. senator, dumped his former running mate, Florida’s first black lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, because she previously lobbied for an alleged charity named in an investigation criminal on Internet cafes in Florida.

Carroll was not accused of wrongdoing and was never charged. But Scott’s administration was eager to distance itself from a scandal, and after ousting Carroll, the governor left the position vacant for 11 months.

Ahead of his 2014 re-election campaign — in which he defeated Crist in his first gubernatorial bid as a Democrat — Scott named a former lawmaker, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, as his first Hispanic for the post.

That year, Crist ran with Annette Taddeo as running mate. Taddeo, now a Miami state senator running for Congress, is Colombian-American.

As a Republican candidate and later governor from 2007 to 2011, Crist nominated a former Cape Coral state legislator, a fellow campaigner, Jeff Kottkamp, ​​who became his lieutenant governor.

The position of lieutenant governor carries an annual salary of $135,516, just short of the governor’s $141,400. And while the office of lieutenant governor has no specific duties under Florida law, selecting a candidate for the position is still an important step on the campaign trail.

The right vice-presidential candidate can bring an enthusiastic campaigner, fundraiser and regional vote-collector to a ticket.

Allison DeFoor, who never held the position, but ran with the governor at the time. Bob Martinez, in his losing bid for re-election in 1990, summarized the responsibilities of the Lieutenant Governor thus:

“A lieutenant governor’s career peaks the day he is nominated,” DeFoor said. “Then he disappears.”

The lieutenant governor, however, is well positioned to take over as chief executive of the state, should the governor die or leave office early. Lieutenant Governor Buddy Mackay succeeded the late Democratic Governor Lawton Chiles upon his death in December 1998, serving as Governor of Florida for the final 24 days of his term.

Contributor: USA Today Network-Florida Enterprise/Politics Editor Sergio Bustos. Contact him at

John Kennedy is a reporter for the Florida Capital Bureau of the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @JKennedyReport

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