TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist is expected to announce that he has chosen the Miami-Dade County teachers union president to be his running mate as he challenges Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, two people close to the campaign said Friday.
United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats will be announced as Crist's running mate on Saturday, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement hasn't been made yet.
The pick will guarantee DeSantis' education policy is an issue in the campaign. The governor has appealed to his conservative base by limiting discussions of race in schools; prohibiting discussion of LGBTQ issues in grades K-3 and limiting it in higher grades; forcing schools to publish the contents of their libraries and giving parents more control in selecting textbooks.
DeSantis also took action to punish school districts that enacted mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday, he removed four Broward County school board members after a grand jury report on the 2018 Parkland high school shooting accused them of deceit and incompetence in handling a school safety program.
Hernandez-Mats advocated delaying students' return to school in the fall of 2020 and continuing mask mandates in 2021, in defiance of DeSantis' administration. She has also been critical of what opponents have dubbed the “Don't Say Gay" law, which prohibits lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Hernandez-Mats is the daughter of two Honduran immigrants who came to the U.S. in the 1970s. She has said she learned the importance of labor advocacy because her father had few rights as a farmworker after having been an accountant in his home country.
Hernandez-Mats was the first Hispanic to be elected to lead the United Teachers of Dade in 2016. The school district has more than 30,000 employees and more than 330,000 students. The American Federation of Teachers says Hernández-Mats helped lead an effort to hold a 2018 referendum in which voters approved a pay raise for public school teachers.
In 2010, she was picked as Teacher of the Year at Hialeah Middle School for her work with special needs children.
DeSantis is widely believed to be considering a bid for the presidency in 2024; winning a second term as governor would be the first step in that journey.
Gomez Licon reported from Miami.
Brendan Farrington And Adriana Gomez Licon, The Associated Press