Democratic Florida gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist is expected to pick Karla Hernandez-Mats, a teachers union president in favor of pandemic school closures, to be his running mate, sources familiar say.
Crist is set to announce Hernandez-Mats, the president of United Teachers of Dade (UTD), to be on the ticket with him in November, CBS Miami reported. The announcement is set to be made Saturday morning during a “Special Event” campaign function reportedly taking place at Hialeah Middle School.
Hernandez-Mats, who represents the fourth-largest school district in the country, advocated for school closures in the state and criticized former President Donald Trump and Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for their push to reopen in-person learning in 2020. At the start of the pandemic, she ridiculed governmental agencies calling to keep schools open.
“We are disappointed with governmental agencies that are saying schools should remain open,” Hernandez-Mats said in tweet posted March 13, 2020. “My hope is that our superintendent will take the lead regardless of what the government is saying.”
UTD posted a statement by Hernandez-Mats on Sept. 27, 2020 in which she touts the union’s decision to vote against reopening schools, saying the decision is “based on science.”
The announcement will be made Saturday at Hialeah Middle School, where Hernandez-Mats worked for more than ten years teaching children with special needs. In 2010 she was the school district’s Teacher of the Year. @CBSMiami
— Jim DeFede (@DeFede) August 26, 2022
“Our decision to push back our date is not only based on science and the data available, it is supported by hundreds upon hundreds of educators and parents who wished to see a reopening that would not regress our community back to Phase 1 status,” she said in the statement. “Failure to do this will not only lead to another lockdown, it will also impact our ability to vote. The negligence is unfathomable and our community needs to stand up and realize there’s more at play here than what meets the eye.”
“Trump’s rush to reopen schools and threats to defund our children are 100% political games,” Hernandez-Mats’ statement continued. “We are simply demanding safety, in order to preserve public health and not lose more lives.”
DeSantis, Crist’s opponent, largely voiced his support to keep schools open during the height of the pandemic. In April 2020, a month after the country shut down over COVID-19, the governor considered reopening schools, alluding to the miniscule risk the virus poses to children. (RELATED: ‘No Restrictions And No Mandates’: DeSantis Announces Executive Order Protecting Children From Mask Mandates In Schools)
“If it’s safe we want kids to be in school. … Even if it’s for a couple of weeks, we think there would be value in that,” he said.
Hernandez-Mats said in a Twitter thread from April 10, 2020 that the governor’s consideration put students and administrators at greater risk of serious illness, and said schools “should remain closed until the safety of our community is secured.” She later accused DeSantis of disregarding the risks surrounding COVID-19, referencing how he lifted restrictions off of federally funded youth programs and activities in May of the same year.
Some Democrats consider Hernandez-Mat to be fitting for the gubernatorial ticket due to her experience in education, CBS Miami reported.
“She’s a good choice,” a Democrat told CBS Miami. “Ron DeSantis has doubled down on education. We know it’s going to be a focus in the campaign, and you are bringing in someone who was a teacher and who understands the issue.”
Hernandez-Mats worked as a special needs teacher for over ten years and was named the Hialeah School District’s Teacher of the Year in 2010, according to CBS Miami.
A University of North Florida poll released Aug. 16 found DeSantis leading eight points ahead of Crist by 50%-42%. The poll surveyed 1,624 registered Florida voters between Aug. 8 to Aug. 12 with a 3.4% margin of error.