Democrat Charlie Crist’s running mate Karla Hernández-Mats, president of the Miami-Dade teachers’ union, set the tone for what will be very similar teams of governors — in terms of geography.
Crist and Ron DeSantis, who were both elected governors, grew up in Pinellas County on the Gulf side of the peninsula. They both attended public high schools in Pinellas, according to biographies and campaign materials.
Their running mates are both from Miami-Dade in South Florida, with Crist announcing his Lt. Governor Hernández-Mats on Saturday in Miami-Dade.
“Born and raised in Miami, Hernández-Mats is a first-generation American of Honduran descent,” according to her national union biography of the American Federation of Teachers.
Meanwhile, Republican “Jeanette M. Nunez was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She was elected Florida’s first Hispanic female lieutenant governor in 2018,” her biography states.
In Hernández-Mats’ welcome speech to Floridians on Saturday, she highlighted her roots in Miami, talking about her father being a union member. She is president of United Teachers of Dade, which is linked to the larger union AFT.
“It was her drive and spirit that led me to choose Karla to serve alongside me at UTD, and today I couldn’t be more proud that my friend and union sister has been called upon to running to be Florida’s next lieutenant governor,” Fedrick Ingram, AFT secretary-treasurer and former president of the Florida Education Association, said in a written statement Saturday. He was also president of the United Teachers of Dade.
“I am optimistic that there are better days ahead in Florida and that in November our state will be one step closer to becoming a more equitable place where every person, regardless of skin color, affiliation politics or sexual orientation, has a voice,” Ingram continued in the written statement.
Hernández-Mats discussed what happens in classrooms as a microcosm of Floridians and communities.
The event took place at a middle school in Haileah, and the Miami-Dade crowd seemed to like Hernández-Mats, frequently interrupting him with chants of support.
“Sí se puede!,” chanted the crowd. “Yes we can!” she translated. It’s a line from Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, but it’s also linked to United Farmworkers.
Crist, as he prepared to announce him as lieutenant governor, said, “We need to make sure we reach all of our people. It’s a campaign for a Florida for all.
That would mean flourishing from Pinellas and Miami-Dade to reach millions of Florida residents. That said, Miami-Dade is the largest county by population in Florida, according to census data, and Democrats make up nearly 40 percent of voters in that county, according to voter registration data.
“Are you tired of culture wars and extremists dictating what we can say and do?” Hernandez-Mats asked the crowd. “Are you sick of politicians acting like authoritarians trying to tear our democracy apart? That’s why we’re here today – to defeat Ron DeSantis and bring decency and respect back to the state of Florida.
“Also on the ballot is our opportunity to bring sunshine back to the state. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s dark in here. It was dark, but we’re going to bring the sun back.