Rep. Charlie Crist, who is once again the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Florida, has had quite the week since winning Tuesday night's primary. As Spencer covered, on Wednesday he had his own "basket of deplorables" moment, saying he didn't want votes from Gov. Ron DeSantis' supporters. Then on Friday it was revealed he was going to choose Karla Hernández-Mats as his running mate, the president of United Teachers of Dade. According to John Kennedy with the Tallahassee Democrat, she heads the largest teachers union in the Southeast.
Kennedy's report highlights a few examples of Crist and Hernández-Mats' remarks, which seemed to double down on attacking DeSantis:
Karla Hernández-Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade, joined her running mate at the rally at Hialeah Middle School where he described her as “empathetic and compassionate” — qualities, Crist added, that “we don’t have in the governor’s office now.”
“We are here today to defeat Ron DeSantis and bring decency and respect back to the state of Florida,” Hernández said, outlining her support for defending abortion rights, voting access and inclusion which Democrats have made a theme of this year’s contests.
Gov. DeSantis is known for going up against teachers unions--or anyone who may get in the way of parents rights--in his state. Florida students were not only back at school for the 2021-2022 year, but DeSantis signed an executive order on July 30, 2021 banning forced masking of students.
It wasn't merely Hernández-Mats' words that serves as examples of teachers unions going after DeSantis. As Guy and Leah covered last summer, Randi Weingarten of American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has really gone after DeSantis. Hernández-Mats is vice president of AFT.
Sarah and Guy also last month covered the results of a poll, commissioned by the AFT itself, which found 56 percent of voters in several battleground states, including Florida, are "much more likely or somewhat more likely to vote for candidates who believe public schools should focus less on teaching students about race and racism and more on core academic subjects."
DeSantis signed into law the Parental Rights Bill in March, which has falsely been dubbed the "Don't Say Gay Bill" by critics, which teachers unions also decried. Polls show that Floridians, including Democrats, support the legislation. The governor also championed the Stop WOKE Act late last year.
When it comes to DeSantis' opponent, specifically Crist's running mate, the Florida GOP put together quite the list of why she is dangerous for Florida including her demonizing parents protesting at school board meetings as well as promoting Critical Race Theory (CRT) and "antiracist trainings." Like most in teachers unions did, she attacked DeSantis for reopening schools and the economy, even claiming the lockdowns "just [haven’t] had an impact" on young people.
In his report, Kennedy included the briefest of comments from Republicans:
Republicans dismissed Hernández for being a union leader who resisted DeSantis’ push for reopening schools during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Republican National Committee spokeswoman Julia Friedland called her, “the perfect fit for lockdown lover Crist’s unpopular, anti-parents campaign.”
He even went on to claim that there wasn't much DeSantis' campaign was able to find on Hernández-Mats:
Still, Hernández may not be an eye-catching pick. On the state stage, she was low-profile enough that DeSantis' War Room social media team initially could only attack her for a couple of Twitter posts.
One was an October 2021 tweet in which she likened some parents attending school board meetings to Halloween monsters trick-or-treating at a door.
“For any of you following the school board meetings, you know that the craziness is real,” she posted.. “God be with us.”
But as the DeSantis attack team continued burrowing into her social media history, it posted more on Twitter attacking her as a "union boss" and for criticizing the governor's demand to open schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Saturday morning, the DeSantis campaign had a lighted sign board outside Hialeah Middle School attempting to link the politics of Crist’s running mate and United Teachers of Dade to Fidel Castro and the old Soviet Union.
Kennedy spent more time addressing the supposed controversies to do with then Gov. Rick Scott's running mate in 2014, Jennifer Carroll. Crist was the Democratic nominee for that year as well, but lost by 1 percentage point. There was virtually no mention in Kennedy's report of the controversies outlined by the Florida GOP.
In reality, the DeSantis War Room Twitter account, as well as Christina Pushaw, who this month transitioned from DeSantis' press secretary to the rapid response director for DeSantis' re-election campaign, put forth several tweets.
Hernández-Mats did more than compare parents to "Halloween monsters," but also serial killers who were "crazy" and claimed many of those who were protesting weren't even parents.
According to Charlie Crist’s running mate, teacher union boss Karla Hernandez Mats:— Christina Pushaw ?? ???? (@ChristinaPushaw) August 27, 2022
If you are against mask mandates in schools, you are not a parent. You are a “soldier of faux rage, false narratives, and political interests” fired up with conspiracy theories.
Listen to how teacher union boss Karla Hernández Mats described moms, dads, and students in Miami-Dade County who stood up for their rights and fought to end the lockdown lobbyists' assault on normalcy.— DeSantis War Room (@DeSantisWarRoom) August 27, 2022
Charlie Crist and #KarlaMarx are running against Florida parents and kids. pic.twitter.com/QPuvMamYdf
Another memorable find includes about how her teachers union defended a child rapist.
Here’s the Herald journalist who wrote about the now-convicted child rapist, who was protected by the teacher union/Karla Hernandez Mats for years. Journo asked Karla for comment; Karla’s assistant said it’s not our problem. It took 2 months for Karla to finally condemn the pedo pic.twitter.com/gUReeF3qqE— Christina Pushaw ?? ???? (@ChristinaPushaw) August 27, 2022
The UTD member Karla Hernandez Mats protected through years of investigations and student rape allegations pled guilty to rape of a child and was sentenced to prison in Jan 2020.— Christina Pushaw ?? ???? (@ChristinaPushaw) August 27, 2022
By May 2020, media was back to promoting Karla for her pro-lockdown stance.https://t.co/CmZ0UWxLOP
She also publicly mourned Cuba's dictator Fidel Castro, which is especially not a good look in south Florida.
Charlie Crist made a bold choice to introduce you as his running mate tomorrow in... Hialeah.— Christina Pushaw ?? ???? (@ChristinaPushaw) August 26, 2022
Charlie Crist slapped Hialeah residents in the face by using their city to announce his running mate Karla Mats who publicly mourned the death of Fidel Castro. It’s one reason why she is referred to as #KarlaMarx.— Helen Aguirre Ferré (@helenaguirrefer) August 27, 2022
In Hialeah this morning, local residents are protesting Charlie Crist's choice of Castro regime-sympathizer teacher union boss Karla Hernandez Mats as his running mate. #KarlaMarx pic.twitter.com/l2Xiy5YMa6— DeSantis War Room (@DeSantisWarRoom) August 27, 2022
Her distaste for DeSantis appears to know no bounds.
Ahhhh Karla also believes America is a racist nation— Brendon Leslie (@BrendonLeslie) August 27, 2022
So racist that a Latina such as herself can run for Lt. Governor of Florida…? pic.twitter.com/zKPgPvwVLQ
Let’s not forget she’s on record defending a child predator https://t.co/LQUDZYJdAX— Brendon Leslie (@BrendonLeslie) August 27, 2022
Unlike many other Democrats who have kept their distance from Biden ahead of the November elections, Crist and also Hernández-Mats, as the Florida GOP revealed, are quite the fans of the president. Hernández-Mats herself attended a union boss roundtable at the White House in June.
A Civiqs poll has Biden at a 56 percent disapproval rating in Florida, while just 36 percent approve.
The race still heavily favors DeSantis, as it is considered "Likely Republican."