Is Gov. Ron DeSantis unbeatable in November?
He is leading Charlie Crist by an average of 4 percentage points, and there are nearly a quarter million more registered Republican voters than Democratic voters in Florida.
Still, Crist says he is confident he can get the votes needed for a win, with the help of his running mate Karla Hernandez.
While 230,000 more registered voters is a lot to overcome, Crist is looking at this number: non-party-affiliated registered voters. There are nearly 4 million of them in Florida.
Crist says Hernandez, his pick for lieutenant governor, can help secure the votes.
Hernandez is the president of the largest teachers union in the southeast: United Teachers of Dade. It has 300,000 members. She is a former special ed teacher and was the teacher of the year at Hialeah Community Middle School in 2010.
But now, Hernandez is facing backlash after she said, “I’m a special-ed teacher, so my major is emotionally-handicapped education, OK? That by itself qualifies me to deal with a dysfunctional legislature.”
Hernandez made the comments during a campaign event about a week ago.
“I am trained in emotionally behaviorally disturbing education. It was an insult to the legislature because they are dysfunctional … that population of students is actually magical and magnificent, so it’s actually a disservice to them that I compared them to dysfunctional lawmakers,” Hernandez said.
She then pivots to what she says is a bigger concern: DeSantis flying migrants out of Florida and into sanctuary cities. She believes voters are tired of the political games and want change.
“Folks are tired of the fear-mongering,” she said. “Folks are tired of you know, seeing their liberties and freedoms being taken away.”
Hernandez takes aim at DeSantis on social media with Chalkboard Talk.
“Today’s word of the day is ‘dictator.’ A person who gives orders and behaves as if they have complete power. A person who behaves in an autocratic way,” she said on Tiktok.
“The freedoms that Gov. DeSantis has taken away from people, and how he oppresses communities, I mean, he took away through gerrymandering, to voting districts, congressional districts that are African American, that doesn’t happen in a free country, democracy like the United States,” she said. “A women’s freedom, autonomy, making sure that you know we have reproductive health in the state of Florida, that we have a high-quality public education system where children have the freedom to learn, and teachers have the freedom to teach.”
The three-time elected teachers union president that she knows the public education system does not work for the public.
She said the state of education of Florida is awful.
“We’re 48th in the nation,” she said in a union of 50.
As a union leader, she also has experience engaging with lawmakers in Tallahassee.
“I have had the opportunity to go and meet with lawmakers and lobby on educational issues on children’s issues. And that’s important, it’s important that, you know, all constituencies from all across the state really get heard. And you know that we have a seat at the table,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said she is worried the impact DeSantis’ rules and rhetoric are having on teaching and learning in Florida schools, including his attacks on “woke culture,” and the Parental Rights in Education law, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“It’s just really terrible that there’s so many attacks on public education,” she said. “We’ve never seen such a concerted effort to ban books, you know, the freedom to learn, censoring teachers. I mean, we’re truth-tellers. And so teachers want to teach with authenticity.”
DeSantis once said: “We are sick of the indoctrination.”
But Hernandez sees it another way.
“So when we talk about indoctrinating, he’s the one that’s doing it. He’s putting politics into the classroom, which is not what parents want. It’s not what teachers want. He’s putting people in school boards that are going to follow and toe the line and do whatever it is that he says,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez also criticizes DeSantis’ plan to put veterans and first responders in classrooms to address the teacher shortage.
“This is the way of teaching them cheap. This is saying that anybody can just come off the street, you know, good, right, indifferent, it doesn’t matter, right? But we went to school and did the pedagogy and have the skill sets and the tactics and, you know, to teach children, and we would never do this to any other profession,” Hernandez said. “I, as a middle school special ed teacher, would not be on the front lines of a war because I’m not trained for that. And you know, I’m not trained to be a surgeon either. So why is it that it’s OK to do it with our children?”
Hernandez doesn’t offer a specific figure but said raising pay and reducing political attacks on the profession will help with recruiting and retaining teachers.
She challenges DeSantis to prove his controversial policies are making education better.
“Kids tell us, you know, everything that’s happening, they feel attacked, when you have laws, like don’t say gay, because some of their family members might be of the LGBTQ plus community, their parents, or maybe themselves, you know, we don’t know how children, you know, grow up and develop and how they identify,” Hernandez said. “But our kids are so bright and so empathetic that even if they’re not part of the LGBTQ plus community, they know it’s wrong to attack somebody that is. And so our children, you know, are our heroes like, they’re, they have the banners and they’re telling us, teacher teacher, this is exactly what you tell us that bad people do. Bad people take away freedoms, bad people attack others, and they see right through it. So they know what’s going on.”
“These are things that are troubling to me that you know, I, I feel like yes, I am the protector, and I am a child advocate, and I gotta stick my neck out. And I have to show kids that you fight for freedoms, and you fight for what’s right. And this is how we make community better,” she added.
WINK News reached out to DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez for interviews.
They have not said yes, but we will let you know if that changes.
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