August 30, 2022

Crist taps Karla Hernández-Mats as running mate, focuses on issues

Charlie Crist, who handily beat Nikki Fried in the gubernatorial primary campaign in August, will face Ron DeSantis in the primary election on Nov. 8. Last weekend, he announced Miami-born teachers’ union leader Karla Hernández-Mats as his running mate. 

The two have a tough battle ahead, which makes our jobs as Florida Democrats Abroad all the more important – to vote and to encourage others to vote!

As DeSantis’ historic $140 million re-election war chest grows by the day, national Democrats have signaled they won’t invest in Florida as heavily as in the past, according to an NBC news report. The state’s growing Hispanic electorate has been shifting rightward since 2018. And, for the first time ever, there are now more registered Florida Republicans than Democrats — a key indicator of voter intensity.

Let’s hope the choice of Hernandez-Mats, 42, helps. 

As the thrice-elected president of United Teachers of Dade, she oversees the operations of the largest labor union in the Southeast United States in the fourth-largest school district nationwide. Hernandez-Mats, a first-generation American born to Honduran immigrants, is the union’s first Hispanic leader. 

It’s a pivotal time for education in Florida, with most conservatives and progressives split on where the power should rest when it comes to school safety, education on sex and gender identity, and how racism and slavery should be taught.

Along with being an educator and mother, she’s a long-time activist. In 2017, she protested for “Dreamers” on the steps of the U.S. Capitol — and was arrested. In recent months, she’s been outspoken against new education rules DeSantis signed into law in the spring and early summer that limit discussions of race in the classroom and ban conversations about LGBTQ+ issues in grades three and younger. She encouraged people to wear masks during the pandemic and hosted a pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic. She also has fought for safer classrooms for students and teachers.

For Hernández-Mats, the role of the lieutenant governor is to ensure the public understands the issues challenging the state, to educate residents about what’s happening in their communities and elsewhere, and to be a great listener. 

Here are some critical issues in the Crist campaign

Reproductive rights:  After his nomination, Crist repeated his campaign pledge to sign an executive order on his first day in office to protect abortion rights in Florida.

Education: Crist has laid out several education policy priorities, including making Florida’s education commissioner an elected position again. He also wants to invest $5.5 billion to increase teacher pay.

Gun control: He would support gun control measures, including required background checks for “all firearm sales,” including those done at gun shows. To get that done, he would have to work with the Republican majority in the Legislature.

Cost of living: Crist blames global forces, the pandemic, and interrupted supply chains for inflation. On general costs, he wants to temporarily suspend the gas tax at the state level and reject “unreasonable rate increases” sought by utility companies. On housing, he wants to increase the affordable housing inventory and appoint a housing czar to place limits on corporations that buy up single-family homes and convert them to rental properties, pricing locals out of the market.

Elections/voting: Crist says they will “roll back Tallahassee’s misguided voter suppression law and make it easier to vote.” He will reverse the limits on mail ballots approved by DeSantis. If the Legislature refuses to act, he would declare a state of emergency before the next general election and make the changes himself. Crist wants Florida to join other states and automatically register to vote for anyone who seeks a driver’s license. He wants to make Election Day a state holiday and proposes moving the Florida primary to the spring to encourage voter participation. 

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