A spokeswoman for a national school choice advocacy group slammed Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist for reversing his position on school choice and selecting teachers union president Karla Hernandez-Mats as his running mate.
Denisha Merriweather, a Florida native and the director of public relations and content marketing for the American Federation for Children, called Crist a “flip-flopper” and predicted that he’ll lose the upcoming election to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is seeking a second term.
“Charlie Crist has been a flip-flopper since I can remember,” Merriweather told Fox News in an interview Wednesday. “My first engagement with Charlie Crist was in high school when he signed the expansion bill for Florida’s school choice program into law. I was there behind him with the signing pen, and he flip-flopped. He’s been saying since then that he’s not going to support school choice, that he wants to pull it down.”
“I don’t think he’s going to win this next gubernatorial election,” she added. “He’s running for no reason. He’s running to lose.”
Crist is a former Republican governor of Florida who served from 2007 to 2011. He ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2010 as an independent before changing his party affiliation and winning a U.S. House seat as a Democrat in 2016. He won the Aug. 23 gubernatorial primary election, defeating Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried for the Democratic nomination to face DeSantis in November.
As a Republican governor in 2010, Crist signed an expansion of Florida’s tax credit scholarship program, which provides funding for parents to send their children to better schools. But as a Democrat on the House Committee on Appropriations, Crist supported a 2019 budget that would have cut funding for charter schools by $40 million and potentially cut off some charter schools from federal funds altogether.
Merriweather is a graduate of Florida’s tax credit scholarship program. She told Fox News that she failed the third grade twice in public school before using a scholarship to attend a private school, which changed her life.
As a high school student, Merriweather was present when Crist signed the legislation expanding the tax credit scholarship program in 2010 and says she received the pen he used to sign the bill.
“He turned his back on students and parents in the state of Florida,” Merriweather told Fox News.
She praised DeSantis for supporting parental rights in education and expanding school choice.
“Parents want choice. I’ve interacted with parents who’ve said that they would change their party, they would go from being a Democrat to being a Republican if that meant that they would have more school choice in the state,” she said.
But she had harsh words for Crist and his running mate Hernandez-Mats, who fought to keep schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and has criticized parents who have become involved in school board meetings.
“Picking the teachers union president of Miami-Dade to be his running mate, it’s really a slap in the face, it’s disgusting, really,” Allen said.