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Crist picks Miami teachers union leader as running mate

Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who secured the party's nomination for governor of Florida on Tuesday, faces long odds in November against popular Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Charlie Crist and Karla Hernandez-Mats
Karla Hernandez-Mats, center, president of United Teachers of Dade, with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist in Miami Springs, Fla., on May 31.Lynne Sladky / AP file
/ Source: Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Democrat Charlie Crist on Saturday tapped Miami-Dade County teachers union president Karla Hernandez-Mats as his running mate as he challenges Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida.

Crist, a congressman who served as the state’s Republican governor a decade ago, announced United Teachers of Dade President Hernandez-Mats as his pick at a rally in Miami.

The selection of Hernandez-Mats ensures a Crist campaign focus on education, an arena where DeSantis has had considerable success in animating his conservative base through his hands-off approach to the coronavirus pandemic and policies limiting classroom discussions of race and LGBTQ issues.

Hernandez-Mats advocated delaying students’ return to school in the fall of 2020 and continuing mask mandates in 2021, in defiance of DeSantis’ administration.

She is the daughter of two Honduran immigrants who came to the U.S. in the 1970s and was the first Hispanic to be elected to lead the United Teachers of Dade in 2016.

Crist secured the Democratic nomination for governor Tuesday after defeating state agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried.