MIAMI - Charlie Crist has chosen Karla Hernandez, the president of the teachers union in Miami, to be his running mate.
The announcement was made at 10:30 am on Saturday during what the campaign advertised as a "Special Event."
Hernandez worked for more than ten years teaching children with special needs. In 2010 she was the school district's Teacher of the Year.
The selection of Hernandez to be on the ticket with him, indicates Crist is leaning into the fight with Governor Ron DeSantis over education.
"She's a good choice," said one Democrat familiar with the decision. "Ron DeSantis has doubled down on education. We know it's going to be a focus in the campaign, and you are bringing in someone who was a teacher and who understands the issue."
Added another source: "Having a mom and a teacher and someone exciting will be great." This source added that because abortion is likely to be a major issue in the election, having a woman on the ticket was critical.
Born and raised in Miami, Hernandez is a first-generation American from Honduras. The 42-year-old is married and has two young children. She has been president of the United Teachers of Dade since 2016.
Crist was elected Florida Education Commissioner as a Republican in 2000 and often talks about how important teachers have been in his life.
At an event last month, Crist said: "My father was on the Pinellas County School Board. Two of my three sisters were public school teachers. I graduated from one of our great state universities It's in my DNA."
Nevertheless, Republicans across the country believe education is a winning issue for them. It proved critical in the Virginia Governor's race last year in which Glenn Youngkin beat Democrat Terry McAullife embraced the advice of the teachers union during the pandemic.
Taking a page from Youngkin's playbook, DeSantis has made what he calls "parental rights" a cornerstone of his campaign and has aggressively pushed legislation to limit what can be taught, or even discussed in the classroom. DeSantis's Department of Education has banned certain books – including math textbooks – that it believes promotes a "woke" culture. He has also created training seminars for teachers on how to teach history, which critics argue downplays slavery in the United States and pushes a Christian nationalist agenda.
In this year's primary, DeSantis weighed in a school board races across the state, pushing a slate of conservative candidates, many of whom were successful.
He has also been critical of Crist, arguing he is beholden to the teacher's union and that it was the teacher's unions across the state that kept schools closed during the pandemic.
It should be noted, however, that it was DeSantis who initially ordered a statewide shutdown in April 2020.
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