Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist on Wednesday endorsed a slate of school board candidates in several parts of Florida, as he looks to counter Gov. Ron DeSantis’ backing of candidates in school board races.
A news release from Crist’s campaign described the candidates he supports as prioritizing “keeping politics out of the classroom, protecting our students’ freedom to learn, and truly defending parental rights.”
The seven candidates endorsed by Crist include three current board members running for reelection. They are Lee County board Chairwoman Debbie Jordan, Marion County board Chairman Eric Cummings and Hillsborough County board member Karen Perez. Crist also is endorsing Polk County candidate Sara Jones, Indian River County candidate Cindy Gibbs, Pinellas County candidate Brian Martin, and Hillsborough candidate Damaris Allen.
“Governor DeSantis is politicizing our classrooms, taking away parental rights and limiting Florida students’ freedom to learn,” Crist said in a statement. “Florida deserves dedicated public servants on our school boards that won’t inject politics into the classroom, but rather work everyday to fight for the best interests of our students and educators.”
In an unusual move, DeSantis has placed significant emphasis on endorsing school-board candidates after a series of high-profile clashes with boards over issues such as mask requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
DeSantis highlighted his efforts Friday during a conference held by the conservative Moms for Liberty group in Tampa. “I think what’s happened over the last couple years is parents now realize that these are really significant elections,” DeSantis told the group.
The governor’s campaign in June launched an online questionnaire designed to gauge school-board candidates’ alignment with his educational priorities.
But as Tip O’Neill famously said, “All politics is local.”