Karla Hernandez-Mats: Five things to know about Charlie Crist’s pick for Lieutenant Governor
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Charlie Crist Karla Hernandez-Mats
Charlie Crist has chosen the top teacher's union rep in Florida's largest public school district as his running mate.

With the Primary Election in the rearview and Gov. Ron DeSantis squarely in his sights, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is picking Miami-born teachers’ union leader Karla Hernandez-Mats to be his running mate.

Crist is scheduled to officially announce his pick of Hernandez-Mats at a Saturday morning press conference in South Florida.

As the thrice-elected president of United Teachers of Dade (UTD), Hernandez-Mats oversees the operations of the largest labor union in the Southeast United States in the fourth-largest school district nationwide.

It’s a pivotal time for education, with most conservatives and progressive 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.

DeSantis’ influence on that front is undeniable. Most of the GOP-aligned School Board candidates he endorsed either won their seats outright Aug. 23 or are headed to runoffs. Democrats are looking to stop the bleeding, and Hernandez-Mats’ voice rings loud among UTD’s 30,000 members and the 1.7 million members of its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers, of which she is vice president.

So, who exactly is Karla Hernandez-Mats? Let’s take a look.

She’s the first Hispanic leader of UTD and has a family background in unionizing.

A first-generation American born to Honduran immigrants, Hernandez-Mats learned to appreciate the power of collective bargaining as a young girl.

Her father, an accountant in his native country, first worked as a farmhand after arriving stateside, cutting sugar cane and picking tomatoes, among other rote agricultural tasks. One day, he was offered a job as a carpenter. The associated union offered training, advocacy and collective bargaining.

“My dad, having worked in the fields for so long, knowing what it was like not to have rights or a good paycheck, said, ‘Absolutely,’” she told this reporter in 2019. “From a very early age, my parents, especially my dad, taught me the importance of being in the labor movement, advocating for people’s rights.”

She grew up educated in the Miami-Dade County Public School system, where she eventually got a job after graduating from Florida International University with a degree in emotionally handicapped education. In 2007, she earned a master in business administration from St. Thomas University.

Six years later, she ran successfully to be UTD Treasurer. Three years after that, she won the group’s presidency, succeeding Fedrick Ingram, the organization’s first Black leader, whom she has described as “a great mentor.”

She fought for teacher pay raises — and won.

In the leadup to the 2018 Midterms, Hernandez-Mats was among the vocal leaders advocating for Referendum 362, a county ballot measure raising property taxes by $142 yearly for the average Miami-Dade homeowner to increase teacher and school staff pay and hire a school police officer for every campus.

Former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration had allotted Miami-Dade the third-lowest base student pay increase, which could go to teacher raises, among Florida’s 67 counties. To better compensate their educators, Miami-Dade residents joined voters in other counties, including Broward and Palm Beach, in overwhelmingly approving the self-imposed tax hike.

“Our schools are underfunded. Our teachers are underpaid, and they deserve the best because they are giving us the best. We are an A-rated district. We have zero failing schools,” Hernandez-Mats told NBC 6 ahead of the vote, which passed with more than 70% support.

She isn’t a huge fan of public school money going to charter schools.

The victory got an asterisk six months later, when state lawmakers passed legislation in April 2019 requiring school districts to share referendum money with charter schools, including funds allocated through previous referendums.

The measure, which DeSantis signed a month later, has since been tied up in legal challenges. It most recently got an OK in March from the 3rd District Court of Appeals, which reversed a lower court’s decision and ruled charter schools are eligible for public school referendum funding.

Speaking on the issue with Miami Today, Hernandez-Mats described the issue as a symptom of “the overreaching powers of Tallahassee.”

“They want to privatize public education,” she said. “There’s no problem with private schools. They were established for a reason. And there’s no problem with charter schools or charter school teachers either. But they shouldn’t be funded with public tax dollars because they do not have any public oversight. They are not accountable to the public. Public schools are.”

She continued, “At the end of the day, they’re hurting our children. … Why would you do that when the public school system helps and educates 90% of every community? Unfortunately, like our country, it’s going a bit backwards, trying to give to the haves and take from the have-nots.”

She protested for “Dreamers” on the steps of the U.S. Capitol — and was arrested.

Hernandez-Mats in December 2017 joined U.S. Rep. Judy Chu of California and former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois in getting arrested while demonstrating alongside hundreds of protesters in Washington.

They were there to oppose former President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program be phased out and replaced. At the time, the program covered some 800,000 people who came to the U.S. illegally as children, allowing them to work and go to school.

“A lot of these people that came at a very young age felt American in every aspect of their life, went to our public schools, and then they (reached an impasse) until they became ‘DACA-mented,’ because (former President Barack) Obama’s administration allowed them to be DACA recipients so they can go to school and work here,” she told Miami Today roughly a year and a half later.

“We have children we teach in school, and we’re telling them, ‘The sky’s the limit. Don’t hold back. Go to school. Get an education.’ Then they realize they can’t because they’re undocumented. Or we have teachers who are fearful they might be deported because they’re DACA-mented. They’re not sure what’s going to happen to them and their legal status. That’s when we have to speak up for them.”

Hernandez-Mats described the protest as nonviolent.

“Sometimes you have to make bold statements,” she said. “That’s protesting peacefully, which it was. Sometimes that’s part of the job.”

She was among 17 other potential running mates Crist’s campaign floated months ago.

In June, Crist’s campaign released a list of 18 people it said he was weighing as a possible running mate. Twelve are current, publicly elected officials. The remainder, including Hernandez-Mats, are not.

The elected officials Crist considered included incoming Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, state Sens. Shevrin Jones, Tina Polsky and Bobby Powell, state Reps. Anna Eskamani, Al Lawson and Marie Woodson, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam, Palm Beach Tax Collector Anne Gannon, Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins and Orange County Property Appraiser Amy Mercado.

He also named Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, former state Rep. Sean Shaw, former Telemundo anchor Maria Celeste Arrarás and Miami lawyer Mary Ann Ruiz as candidates for the Lieutenant Governor position.

After Primary Election Day and with the Sept. 1 deadline for Crist to pick a running mate fast approaching, speculation mounted as to who it would be.

Public opinion analyst Fernand Amandi suggested Crist should sidestep the group entirely and choose Andrew Warren, the Hillsborough County State Attorney whom DeSantis suspended for saying he would not enforce Florida’s new 15-week abortion ban.

NBC News NOW host Chuck Todd and Kristen Welker forwent mentioning any of the candidates Tuesday and instead asked Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Crist’s opponent in the Democratic Primary, if she would accept an offer. She would.

In an guest opinion column for Florida Politics, government law attorney Chris Hand, a seasoned former congressional Press Secretary, singled out Driskell, Eskamani and Mercado as being able to “provide the political acumen and governing experience Crist needs as a running mate.” The catch, he said, is that they would have to either forgo their re-election bids or resign from office to join Crist in his run at the Governor’s Mansion.

To avoid such a tradeoff, Hand recommended that Crist pick between Mucarsel-Powell, former gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan, former state Rep. Mia Jones, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose term ends in November, or Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins, who is retiring in December.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


33 comments

  • Tom

    August 26, 2022 at 2:41 pm

    What a joke.
    Totally meaningless.
    Who dat? Desperation.
    Totally irresponsible pick.
    What’s she going to say, we didn’t want to teach? We wanted on line class?
    We want raises?
    They got two, plus 2 bonuses.
    Spare us. Blatant payoff.
    ThAnks for ensuring victory for Gov Ron.

    • Bill

      August 26, 2022 at 3:32 pm

      So dickhead, don’t vote for him/her then. I’m not voting for desantis.

      • Tom

        August 26, 2022 at 3:57 pm

        You wouldn’t say to my face.
        She’s a joke just like you!
        Chameleon is so yesterday.

        • Charlie Crist

          August 26, 2022 at 4:47 pm

          Wouldn’t say that to your face? Nobody would say anything to your face because you waste of time. Horribly deranged mongrel. Need impatient hospitalization…

          • Tom

            August 26, 2022 at 6:44 pm

            Pathetic, how’s the incest Joey corsin, idiot Elliot.

        • Tjb

          August 26, 2022 at 5:12 pm

          I would love to see your face Tom . Are you Christina Pushaw in drag?

          • Tom

            August 26, 2022 at 5:37 pm

            Yours Tjb like the rest of you Manchurians is one of a women’s ovary. You get screwed every day!

    • Gerald Jacobs

      August 27, 2022 at 10:44 am

      Agree! It’s a great choice for that reason!

  • ScienceBLVR

    August 26, 2022 at 3:47 pm

    Quite a savvy pick if you ask me.. and gee whiz, the current Lt. Gov is a Hispanic female from Miami-hmmmm seems familiar. I also would be willing to bet less than 5% of Floridians could tell you the name of DeSantis’s pick, so not a lot of awareness there anyway. But, she’s a teacher! I cant speak for the entire teacher tribe, but DeSantis is universally disliked by a great majority of educators, with good reason. Way to go Charlie!

    • David Markham

      August 27, 2022 at 12:33 am

      But DeSantis is loved by most parents and there are a lot more of them.

      • Tom

        August 27, 2022 at 12:27 pm

        Correct David, Gov will likely get majority of educators vote, support!
        Just a horrendous pick.

    • Jerry

      August 27, 2022 at 12:28 pm

      Teachers are angry at DeSantis, but parents are increasingly getting angry at the teachers. The problem is that in a democracy, the parents have the power, ultimately.

      We just saw last Tuesday what happens when you anger enough parents….your school board gets thrown out on their butts! Those parents that voted certainty won’t be voting for Crist and the teachers unions. And there are many many many more parents than teachers.

      • Tom

        August 27, 2022 at 5:56 pm

        It’s naive to think that all educators are not voting for DeSantis,

        DeSantis can get a majority vote or break even. He pushed through the first pay raise pre Covid, and the second last year. Bonuses twice also.

        No one should assume all teachers agree with the filth.

        Regardless, what ever he gets is gravy in support.

  • David Ruz

    August 26, 2022 at 4:15 pm

    Charlie Christ again pandering to the far left to garner, don’t know exactly what he is intending to garner with a far left running mate in conservative Florida.
    I would like to ask Ms. Mats if she has seen any new tread on the immigration issue with Dreamers now that those same Democrats crying over it in Washington are in power, last I heard nothing new has happened in their two years in power, but thats typical of Democrats I guess.

  • Tom

    August 26, 2022 at 4:15 pm

    Misinformation from misbeliever.
    You didn’t even know when the Great Depression started.

    Educators support Gov Ron.
    Lt Gov Nunez was a St Rep. She brings vast understanding and accomplishment. She represents the Cuban community. Solid Lt Gov.

    The two pay raises and two bonuses have standing. He will get 45% to 55% support.
    Stop acting like educators vote is monolithic.
    Educators support, understand the de-pravity and corrupt non basic teaching taking place.
    They support many things not just curriculum.
    Your ignorant to suggest other. This is an attempt to counter the vast wins on corrupt school culture. Picking a know nothing, with no heft or understanding is a joke.
    Advantage Gov Ron and Nunez.

    • Charlie Crist

      August 26, 2022 at 4:45 pm

      Yeah Fat Cammack take it all off, stand over your head, then let feet fly out from underneath her. Give your face horrible azz crush.. gargantuan buttocks pulverize your head. Good scrub!!!!!🍩💋😆

      • Tom

        August 26, 2022 at 6:39 pm

        Hi F yourself incest pig.

  • U. Neon Leader

    August 26, 2022 at 7:32 pm

    This is an especially poor pick for all those citizens of Florida who are not beholden in some way or the other to the teacher’s unions or to unions in general. Why? Because it is generally accepted that, if elected, Charlie is going to be outa here in less than two years any way as he reaches like an over-extended trapeze artist for the top job–the presidency. Yes, that is what Charlie wants. Let’s see Scheckner or any of that drab squad of pr flacks called the Capital press corps actually ask Charlie to say whether he is interested in the presidency or not–and report the answer. You will notice, of course, that they have been talking about DeSantis in that regard for months and months, but nobody has asked Charlie yet. I suspect that’s because they don’t want to further damage his chances. Governor Hernandez-Mats; oh’ brother! I want to hear her explain just who she thinks she could represent outside of a few thousand broken down old failures at the professor game–them or women interested in abortion.

    • marylou

      August 27, 2022 at 11:31 am

      36 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD THANK A UNION:

      Weekends
      All Breaks at Work, including your Lunch Breaks
      Paid Vacation
      FMLA
      Sick Leave
      Social Security
      Minimum Wage
      Civil Rights Act/Title VII (Prohibits Employer Discrimination)
      8-Hour Work Day
      Overtime Pay
      Child Labor Laws
      Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
      40 Hour Work Week
      Worker’s Compensation (Worker’s Comp)
      Unemployment Insurance
      Pensions
      Workplace Safety Standards and Regulations
      Employer Health Care Insurance
      Collective Bargaining Rights for Employees
      Wrongful Termination Laws
      Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
      Whistleblower Protection Laws
      Employee Polygraph Protect Act (Prohibits Employer from using a lie detector test on an employee)
      Veteran’s Employment and Training Services (VETS)
      Compensation increases and Evaluations (Raises)
      Sexual Harassment Laws
      Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
      Holiday Pay
      Employer Dental, Life, and Vision Insurance
      Privacy Rights
      Pregnancy and Parental Leave
      Military Leave
      The Right to Strike
      Public Education for Children
      Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 (Requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work)
      Laws Ending Sweatshops in the United States

      —-Daily KOS Community

      • RB Williams

        August 27, 2022 at 4:44 pm

        marylou, you list a lot of union myths but if you were taught by Union Public School teachers you don’t know much American history and little or none of the American Labor movement.
        In 1914 Henry Ford thought of putting his line workers on a 40 hour week, down from 48 hours a week. The years 1926 {Ford], 1938 [Congress], 1940 [Unions, yes, the unions finally got involved]. Chew on that. Ignorance is one thing, when you combine ignorance with others myths&LIes you get Ignorpidity, ignorance plus stupidity. Many people have no use for the teachers unions and their behavior during the pandemic didn’t help them.

  • Tom Joad

    August 26, 2022 at 9:11 pm

    Wow. I was completely uninspired by Crist and was going to hold my nose and vote for him but with this move and the aneurysm it’s giving the Right and the charter school grifters, I might actually knock some doors and make some calls for Crist after all. By the way, charter schools were more likely to close during the pandemic than public schools, so let’s put that to bed.

    • PeterH

      August 27, 2022 at 10:06 pm

      This is a terrific move by Crist.

  • Tom

    August 27, 2022 at 9:36 am

    Chameleon goes pandering.
    LMAO, neon and joad.
    Your comments, “Especially poor, uninspiring pick. “. Wow, just a joke of a selection.
    Talk about pandering.

  • Rob

    August 27, 2022 at 10:50 am

    She’s a dirty communist is what she is.

  • David in Shoreline

    August 27, 2022 at 12:44 pm

    Hrm. Picking a public union lackey when most Floridians can see damn well that the teachers unions have destroyed education. Great pick Charlie. You made it a lot easier for Governor DeSantis to keep his job.

  • Jerry

    August 27, 2022 at 1:04 pm

    So Crist is on the side of the woke liberal teachers and the teacher’s unions. DeSantis is on the side of the parents. My money is on the parents winning this fight. In Florida, parents and voters have the power to decide what happens with education, not the unions or a bureaucracy. The teachers are going to lose this.

    And Crist was stupid to select Matz as a running mate. Because it plays right into DeSantis’s strategy to make education an election issue. And yes, it is a winner for conservatives. Look what happened in Virginia last year. Look what happened here in Florida last Tuesday. Conservatives WILL turn out for this fight.

  • PeterH

    August 27, 2022 at 10:04 pm

    Another excellent article by Jesse Scheckner. Thank you Florida Politics!

  • Tom

    August 28, 2022 at 6:47 am

    Agreed. Republicans nationally lead Dums by 5% to 10% pts on Education issues. It’s a remarkable turnaround.

  • Mary Wilson

    August 29, 2022 at 10:07 am

    I think this is a brilliant choice. What could be more important than our children’ education and welfare? Hernandez-Mats is exemplary in every way and should have broad appeal.

  • marylou

    August 30, 2022 at 11:58 am

    This is an excellent pick. Decades of Republican governors have neglected Florida’s public schools, leaving them in a state where parents actually fear for their children’s education and well-being. Desantis wants to be “the final nail” in the Republican effort to destroy public schools and funnel taxpayer money to private corporate education mills run by his rich donors..

    You may cheer about how your kid is getting into a private school!!! Well, private schools are allowed to choose their students. Your kid will be going to the one that your voucher will pay for. Parents who can afford to top-off their voucher to meet the tuition at a better school will not be sending their child to your child’s basic school, where children learn 6th grade math and reading, and maybe a few Bible verses. Even if you later save up enough money for a better school, your child won’t pass the school’s entrance exam to transfer-in.

    Don’t limit your child’s future just to further Ron’s political aspirations against Trump. After 20+ years of Republican governors’ mismanagement, a change is needed. Florida parents need safe, effective schools where their children can thrive. Hernandez-Mats is the right choice for Florida kids and parents.

Comments are closed.


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