Top Democrat compares Florida under DeSantis to ‘handmaiden story’

  • Democrat Karla Hernández-Mats called the Republican Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Florida “Commander DeSantis” and “Aunt Jeanette.”
  • Hernández-Mats, who is running for lieutenant governor, was making a thinly veiled reference to the dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
  • She told Insider Florida’s abortion, education and voting laws led to the characterization.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Karla Hernández-Mats, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Florida, said Friday that living in the state is starting to feel like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the 1985 dystopian novel that blew up on the list of bestsellers under Donald Trump’s presidency.

During a speech at a fundraiser known as the Miami-Dade Democratic Party Blue Gala, Hernández-Mats — the No. 2 on the gubernatorial ticket with Charlie Crist — brushed off Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez by comparing them to characters in Margaret Atwood’s novel.

“We cannot allow Commander DeSantis and Aunt Jeanette to continue to turn Florida into a mini Gilead,” she said, referring to the fictional Republic of Gilead from the book, a military and religious dictatorship that overthrows the US government.

In the novel, women known as “maids” are raped and forced to produce children for the male ruling class, known as “commanders”. Servants are not allowed to read, write or own property, and newspapers are censored. Aunts train and indoctrinate servants.

“Obviously a lot of people have read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and I think we’re backing off like that,” Hernández-Mats said in an interview with Insider after the event, a plated dinner featuring other Democratic speakers and held at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Hernández-Mats drew comparisons to laws passed under DeSantis, including a 15-week abortion ban with no exceptions for rape and incest, pressure to redraw the state’s congressional map, and the state’s decision to reject certain non-compliant mathematics textbooks. with a new education law limiting how race is discussed in classrooms.

“All of these things, unfortunately, seem fictional and fantastical and would never happen – because that’s what I thought while reading this book – and here we are in 2022,” she told Insider. . “We see a governor who acts like a dictator, who is authoritarian, and who kidnaps us and deprives us of our freedom, which is exactly what happened in Gilead.”

Hernández-Mats said she hadn’t used the comparison in a speech until Friday, but the comparison in Washington, DC, when Trump was president was not unusual.

Protesters dressed as maids gathered outside the US Capitol as the GOP-controlled Senate confirmed Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, and as Republicans attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the former President Barack Obama’s health law.

Hernández-Mats told Insider that she’s read the book but hasn’t watched Hulu’s rendition of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which won multiple Emmys and stars Elizabeth Moss.

Representative Charlie Crist celebrates by announcing his running mate Karla Hernández-Mats at Hialeah Middle School in Hialeah, Fla. on Saturday, August 27, 2022 as he challenges Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in November.

Representative Charlie Crist celebrates by announcing his running mate Karla Hernández-Mats at Hialeah Middle School in Hialeah, Fla. on Saturday, August 27, 2022 as he challenges Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in November.

Gaston De Cardenas/AP Photo


Governor’s race aims to define freedom

Hernández-Mats, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Honduras, is a former special education teacher who later became president of United Teachers of Dade, a teachers’ union.

“My goal as a teacher is to teach emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children,” Hernández-Mats said during his Friday night speech. “So I think you’ll agree that makes me uniquely qualified to deal with dysfunctional legislators in Tallahassee.”

Crist announced on August 27 that he had chosen Hernández-Mats to be on his ticket and resigned from the US House days later. He was Governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011, when he was a Republican at the time.

DeSantis rarely mentions Crist in his speeches. Instead, he regularly touts his actions during the COVID-19 pandemic to “keep Florida free” and called the Sunshine State “the freest state.” DeSantis challenged federal health officials and attracted a loyal base of supporters after allowing states and businesses to stay open much earlier than other states.

National name recognition — and speculation that he will run for president in 2024 — followed.

At public events in recent weeks, DeSantis warned voters “not to take anything for granted” that Florida would have operated the same way during the pandemic if he weren’t governor. DeSantis won his first term by less than half a percentage point against Democrat Andrew Gillum, the former mayor of Tallahassee.

DeSantis criticized Hernández-Mats for supporting pandemic-induced school closures when she led the teachers’ union. Hernández-Mats told Insider on Friday that she supported reopening but wanted to do so safely.

Still, DeSantis sees his education policies as one of his strongest arguments for re-election. Despite facing backlash as schools reopened for months, many blue states eventually followed suit amid parental backlash and, as officials concluded virtual learning was hurting results social and educational.

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