She sat down with Floricua to discuss some of the issues that are most pressing to Floridians, like the growing affordability crisis and the dangerous precedent set by some of the governor’s policies that infringe on personal freedoms.
“I’m a mom, I’m a teacher, I’m a union leader.”
That is how Karla Hernández-Mats, Charlie Crist’s running mate against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, describes herself. The daughter of Honduran immigrants who came to the US in the 1970s, Hernández-Mats was the first Hispanic elected to lead the United Teachers of Dade in 2016. She was born in Miami and her father picked tomatoes in the Everglades before becoming a carpenter and labor leader.
“Caring, loving, empathic, compassionate — that’s what we don’t have in the governor’s office right now, and that’s what you deserve to have in the governor’s office,” Crist said when introducing Hernández-Mats as his lieutenant governor.
Mano a Mano
What do you think four more years of DeSantis would mean to Florida?
“Honestly, it would be a disaster. We see that this is a governor that’s anti woman. He’s anti education. We’ve never seen educators being vilified the way that he has vilified them on this campaign,” Hernández-Mats said.
She is referencing the governor’s 15-week abortion ban that has no exceptions for rape and incest, and his attempt to restrict school districts, colleges, and universities from discussing certain race-related concepts, as well as the “Don’t Say Gay,” law which limits the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the nation’s largest teacher unions, publicly blasted Gov. Ron DeSantis’ influence on education in Florida, saying that the governor has created an atmosphere of fear in the classroom, mainly among teachers. As a teacher, what do you say?
I’ve never seen so much attacking, so much vilifying of educators when they have done everything in their power to take care of children! Teachers take care of everybody’s children, and for him to falsely accuse teachers of teaching things that they don’t… First of all, no teacher has ever taught any kind of sexual orientation content in kindergarten or third grade, and he knows this, because the Department of Education is handled by the governor’s cabinet. So, if there was a problem, it would be a Republican problem, because they are the ones that have been in power over the Department of Education.
There’s also an affordability crisis hitting hard-working Floridians and forcing many to choose between paying rent and basic necessities like food and medicine.
People are being priced out of their communities. We have an affordability crisis that’s real, and people all across the state are concerned over utility costs that have gone up, insurance prices that have gone up, all under [DeSantis’] watch, and he has done nothing to address those needs.
A Fragile Democracy
DeSantis has also been called out for attacking businesses that don’t follow his agenda. When the Disney corporation refused to support his “Don’t Say Gay” bill, for example, he retaliated by moving to end that organization’s 55 years of self-government.
It is only going to get worse. More rights are going to be taken away from people; he’s going to continue to act like a wannabe dictator where he bans books, censors teachers, removes people from office that have been duly elected. This is not the Florida that we want or that we need. We want a democracy, and we know that democracy is fragile, and that’s why everybody needs to get out and vote.
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Republicans have done a great job in convincing people that Democrats are communists or Soviet-style socialists, that they want to do away with democracy. What do you say to this?
When we think about the characteristics of authoritarian regimes, of what dictators do, we see he had four school board members removed that were duly elected in Broward County. We see that he bans books, right? He’s limiting knowledge, knowledge is power, and you know, it’s a tell-tale sign when you see something like this happening. Florida is the number two state in the entire country that has the most banned books in the country. He also removed Andrew Warren, the attorney general from Hillsborough. I mean, how many more people is he going to remove that have been elected, and people not call him the dictator that he is?
There is also the issue of immigration, when he took taxpayer’s money to fly 48 Venezuelan refugees to Martha’s Vineyard, with the false promise of work.
He’s trying to create these fictitious stories of, you know, immigrants, and trying to make them the enemy when they weren’t even here [in Florida], they were in Texas. And so, we know that this is part of the rhetoric to create this fear mongering to divide people.
Gov. Ron DeSantis also signed into law Congressional maps that reduce access to representation for minority communities, including the Puerto Rican community.
He’s trying to limit the access to power of minority communities. I mean, how many more characteristics do we need to demonstrate to people that he’s the authoritarian, that he’s the dictator? That’s exactly what happens in Cuba and Nicaragua in Venezuela, in places so many of our family members have fled and come here seeking freedom and seeking democracy. So, we have to be with our eyes wide open, making sure that we don’t make the same mistakes that our family members perhaps made in their countries.
Every Vote Counts
What is, in your opinion, the solution to the problems faced by Floridians?
We want to expand Medicaid, we want to bring down prescription costs, drug costs. We want to give women their rights, make sure that education is well funded, that we protect the climate, that we increase solar power and drop utilities. And I want to be hands on supporting our governor, Charlie Crist, making sure that he has the support from Republicans and Democrats working across the aisle and ensuring that we get to those needs all across the state of Florida on day one.
What would you like to tell people before Nov. 8?
DeSantis won by 32,000 votes, which is not a lot. He won by less than 1%. So, what I would tell people is that every vote matters; that we have to use this opportunity of early voting, and that we’re not going to the precinct by ourselves, that we’re going in groups and ensuring that our voices are heard because less than 1% is nothing. DeSantis is trying to eliminate access to even early drop boxes for senior citizens. We know that if our vote didn’t matter, he wouldn’t do so much to try to take away our votes. So, let’s use it. Let’s use our power.