ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Gubernatorial nominee and former Florida governor Charlie Crist selected Karla Hernandez-Mats, the teachers union president in Miami, to be his running mate on Saturday.
Hernandez-Mats, 42, currently serves as president of United Teachers of Dade and a vice president of the American Federation of Teachers.
The Miami Herald reports Hernandez-Mats is a first-generation American of Honduran descent and was born in Miami. 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.
She holds a bachelor’s degree from Florida International University in emotionally handicapped education and a master’s degree in business management from St. Thomas University.
The "special event" was held at Hialeah Middle School, where Hernandez-Mats worked for more than ten years teaching children with special needs.
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.
Hernandez-Mats advocated delaying students' return to school in the fall of 2020 and continuing mask mandates in 2021, in defiance of Florida Gov. Ron 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.
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.
This is Hernandez-Mats’ first run for public office.
Charlie Crist began his political career as a Republican, serving in the Florida Senate, as Florida Education Commissioner and Florida Attorney General. He served as Florida’s governor from 2007-2011 and joined the Democratic party in 2012 after endorsing former President Barack Obama for reelection.
In 2016, Crist flipped a Republican seat and was elected as the Democratic Congressman for Florida’s 13th District.
During his time as Florida’s 44th governor, he led Floridians through the Great Recession and the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill.
Crist is running on the promise to “build a Florida for all Floridians.” He’s been endorsed by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Miami Sen. Jason Pizzo and Democratic Rep. Kevin Chambliss. All have been outspoken critics of current DeSantis.
He has pushed for voting rights — undoing DeSantis’ limitations on mail ballots, reducing gun violence through stricter gun safety laws and women’s abortion rights.