Crist Names Miami UTD President His Running Mate

Jesse Scheckner photo from July 9, 2019 article at

That was the question Karla Hernández-Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade, posed to the crowd after being introduced by Charlie Crist on Saturday as his running mate.

The union leader was a surprise pick to most, but her selection was quickly embraced.

“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,” Crist said before Hernández-Mats joined him on stage to rousing applause.

“It was her drive and her spirit that drove me to choose Karla to serve alongside me at UTD, and today, I could not be prouder that my friend and union sister has been called to run to be the next lieutenant governor of Florida,” said Fedrick Ingram, American Federation of Teachers secretary-treasurer and a former president of the Florida Education Association, in a written statement Saturday.

“I am optimistic that there are brighter days ahead in Florida and that, come November, our state will be one step closer to becoming a more equitable place where every person – regardless of the color of their skin, political affiliation or sexual orientation – has a voice,” Ingram continued in the written statement.

Hernández-Mats spoke Saturday about the need to defeat Gov. Ron DeSantis and bring decency and respect back to the state of Florida. She challenged the crowd to bring the energy in the room throughout the state to knock on doors and bring “sunshine back to Florida” because “it’s been dark here,” she said.

Her selection ensures a campaign focus on education, an arena where DeSantis has doubled down with passage of his “Don’t Say Gay” bill; his ranting against teaching critical race theory in schools; and his recent foray into school board politics by planting and financing candidates across the state to challenge those deemed not conservative enough.

DeSantis butted heads with health experts and teachers unions during the pandemic by demanding that schools reopen and opposing mask mandates. Hernández-Mats frequently spoke in opposition to DeSantis administration policies during the height of the pandemic and was regularly quoted in this newspaper in defense of student and teacher safety.
Hernández-Mats is the daughter of Honduran immigrants. Her father picked tomatoes and cut sugar cane in the Florida Everglades before becoming a carpenter and proud union member.

She said her father taught her the value of hard work, which she has put into practice. Before becoming a labor leader, she taught middle school students with special needs and was named teacher of the year at the school where she was introduced by Crist on Saturday.

But don’t expect education to be her only issue. Hernández-Mats shies away from nothing and reminded everyone that a woman’s right to choose is also on the ballot.

“Are you tired of the culture wars and the extremists that are dictating what we can say and do?” she asked.

“Sí se puede!” the crowd chanted. “Yes, we can!” translated Hernández-Mats.

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