- Democrat gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist on Saturday chose Karla Hernández-Mats as his running mate
- Hernández-Mats, who has never served as a public official, has led the teacher’s union since 2016 and worked as an educator for ten years prior to that
- Hernández-Mats immediately contrasted herself with Gov. Ron DeSantis on issues including abortion and education
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist on Saturday selected teachers’ union chief Karla Hernández-Mats as his running mate ahead of his November election against incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Though Hernández-Mats has never held public office, she has served as the teacher’s union chief for six years, representing more than 30,000 employees of the Miami-Dade County School System, the largest labor union in the Southeast United States.
In early media appearances, Hernández-Mats wasted no time in positioning herself opposite that of DeSantis across a variety of hot-topic issues, including school regulations and abortion.
“If you care about freedoms, and you care about women’s freedom to choose to have autonomy over their body, I need you to vote,” Hernandez-Mats said. “If you care about protecting people’s freedoms and making sure that they have access to vote, I need you to take a friend to go out and vote. We are here because also on the ballot is our opportunity to bring sunshine back into the state.”
Crist’s campaign has placed a laser focus on education this election cycle, making public announcements to denote the release of his education platform, nominally referred to as the ‘Freedom to Learn’ initiative. Within the agenda exists an outline that demarcates steps Crist will take in contrast to the measures passed by DeSantis earlier this year.
The plan states that Crist aims to “improve classroom experiences for teachers, parents, and students,” should he win election.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Hernández-Mats was a vocal critic of DeSantis and his COVID-19 policies, including the reopening of schools and masking.
I'm Karla Hernández, your Democratic Nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Florida!
— Karla Hernández (@KarlaforFlorida) August 27, 2022
“[Karla’s] story is a Florida story,” said Crist. “As a first-generation American who dedicated her life to service, she became a Miami-Dade public school teacher a fierce defender of working Floridians reproductive freedom.”
Republican leaders quickly vocalized dissatisfaction with Hernandez, called her an “extremist” and “a slap in the face to Florida parents.”
The party also attacked Hernández-Mats’ COVID-19 stances, tweeting that she was in favor of school closures, forced masks, and accused her of wanting to “brainwash Florida kids.”
In an attack online, the GOP called Hernández-Mats “the perfect fit for lockdown lover Crist’s controversial, anti-parents campaign” by the Republican National Committee.