Democrat Charlie Crist’s running mate Karla Hernández-Mats, a Miami-Dade teacher union president, has set the tone for what will be very similar gubernatorial teams — in the way of geography.
Both Crist and Ron DeSantis, who both have been elected Governors, grew up in Pinellas County on the Gulf side of the peninsula. They both attended Pinellas public high schools, according to bios and campaign material.
Their running mates are both from Miami-Dade in South Florida, with Crist announcing his Lieutenant 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 bio from the nationwide American Federation of Teachers union.
Meanwhile, Republican “Jeanette M. Nuñez was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She was elected as Florida’s first Hispanic female Lieutenant Governor of Florida in 2018,” her bio states.
In Hernández-Mats’ welcoming speech to Floridians on Saturday, she emphasized her roots in Miami, speaking about her dad being a union member. She is the president of United Teachers of Dade, which is connected to the larger AFT union.
“It was her drive and her spirit that drove me to choose Karla to serve alongside me at UTD, and today, I could not be prouder that my friend and union sister has been called to run to be the next Lieutenant Governor of Florida,” said Fedrick Ingram, AFT secretary-treasurer and a former president of the Florida Education Association, in a written statement Saturday. He also previously served as the president of the United Teachers of Dade.
“I am optimistic that there are brighter days ahead in Florida and that, come November, our state will be one step closer to becoming a more equitable place where every person — regardless of the color of their skin, political affiliation or sexual orientation — has a voice,” Ingram continued in the written statement.
Hernández-Mats discussed what’s going on in classrooms as a microcosm of Floridians and communities.
The event was at a Haileah middle school and the crowd in Miami-Dade appeared to love Hernández-Mats, frequently interrupting her with supportive chants.
“Sí se puede!,” the crowd chanted. “Yes, we can!” she translated. It’s a phrase from the Barack Obama campaign in 2008, but it is also connected to united farm workers.
Crist, when he was preparing to announce her as Lieutenant Governor, said, “We’ve got to make sure to touch all our people. This is a campaign for a Florida for all.”
That would mean blossoming from Pinellas and Miami-Dade to reach millions of residents in Florida. That said, Miami-Dade is the largest county by population in Florida, according to census data, and Democrats make up nearly 40% of voters in that county, according to voter registration data.
“Are you tired of the culture wars and the extremists that are dictating what we can say and do?” Hernandez-Mats asked the crowd. “Are you sick of politicians who act like authoritarians trying to tear apart our democracy? That’s why we are 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 into the state. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been dark in here. It’s been dark, but we’re gonna bring the sunshine back.”
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