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Geraldine F. Thompson

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Democratic Incumbent, Senate District 15

Public Service

  • Florida Senate 2022-Present; 2012-2016

  • Florida House of Representatives: 2006-2012, 2018-2022

  • Chair, Orange County Legislative Delegation

  • Chair, Florida Museum of Black History Task Force

  • Vice Chair, Children, Families and Elder Affairs Senate Committee

Occupation

Florida State Senator
Founder Wells’Built Museum of African American History and Culture

Education

  • Florida State University, M.A. Communications 1973

  • University of Miami, B.A. Journalism, Business Education 1970

  • Miami-Dade Community College, A.A. 1968

Incumbent Democrat Geraldine F. Thompson, 75, is asking voters to send her back to Tallahassee for a third term to represent Senate District 15 in the Florida Senate. She faces her former legislative colleague, former Democratic State Sen. Randolph Bracy, 47, in the Aug. 20 primary.


With no Republican challengers, the primary is open to all voters. The winner of the Aug. 20 election will go to Tallahassee to represent the district, which encompasses Winter Garden, Ocoee, Pine Hills, Eatonville, Dr. Phillips and parts of downtown Orlando.


Early voting will take place Aug. 5 through Aug. 18. Check our list for locations. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Aug. 8. and it must be received by 7 p.m. Aug. 20 at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office at 119 Kaley Street in Orlando.


Family feud

The race between the two representatives of Orange County’s two political power families has turned into a nasty, mainly one-sided fight as Bracy, the son of Thompson’s close friend from university, Dr. LaVon Wright Bracy, has leaned in hard to personal grievance while not putting forth specific policy proposals. He called a press conference to threaten a lawsuit to force Thompson off the ballot over accusations that she does not live in District 15, then posted multiple Instagram videos to protest her joining the press conference to provide her perspective. (In May, she told VoxPopuli that she lives in the district in Ocoee, with her daughter to help care for her 2-year-old twin granddaughters and that she is registered to vote in Ocoee.) Meanwhile, VoxPopuli learned that Bracy does not live in Orange County, although he is registered to vote in Oakland.


Bracy’s Instagram and Facebook feeds have raised eyebrows among several Democratic lawmakers and election watchers who expressed their concerns privately to VoxPopuli about Bracy’s behavior since his father, the Rev. Dr. Randolph Bracy, founder of the New Covenant Baptist Church in Orlando died last June.


“He’s spiraling,” Thompson told VoxPopuli in a candid moment.


Well-known advocate

In a collective display of support, the Orange County Legislative Delegation Democrats — that is, all the Democratic lawmakers representing Orange County in Tallahassee — has endorsed Thompson over Bracy in a June 14 statementLINK. The group includes Bracy’s sister, State Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis, who is also running for re-election in House District 40. She called Thompson an “invaluable mentor.” Bracy Davis has declined to comment on her brother.


After five terms in the Florida House and two in the Senate, Thompson is well-known to West Orange County voters as an advocate for healthcare, education, voting access and social justice.


Originally from New Orleans, Thompson came to South Florida as a child in 1955. She taught for six years in Orange County Public Schools, worked as an administrator at Valencia College for 24 years, and, in 2009, founded the Wells’Built Museum of African American History and Culture in downtown Orlando. Her district offices are on the second floor of the museum.

A member of the prestigious Black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha and married to Emerson R. Thompson, the first Black chief judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, Thompson is best known for her years-long efforts to secure the posthumous exoneration in 2021 for Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas — the Black teenagers collectively known as the Groveland Four — who, in 1949, were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in Lake County.


Thompson told VoxPopuli in a Zoom interview that the top three issues currently facing Floridians are affordable housing, property insurance and education.


She opposed the state’s new Unauthorized Public Camping and Public Sleeping law, which goes into effect Oct. 1. She said it was “criminalizing homelessness” and also called it an “unfunded mandate” for municipalities.


“In addition to not solving the problem, municipalities throughout the state are now required to make sure people are not sleeping in public places and to remove them and put them in camps,” she said.


Thompson also described the property insurance situation as “still very much a crisis,” particularly since NOAA has forecast 2024 as the most active hurricane season on record. She said it’s time to talk about the environment and renewable energy in Florida, particularly in light of recent tornadoes in Tallahassee and as flooding in South Florida becomes a regular phenomenon.


“For a long time, the utility companies fought solar energy. Now we have some legislation that just removes even the words climate change from the language because people just don't want to acknowledge that it's real, and it is. And a lot of it is due to human activity, so we've got to deal with that.”


In education, she  pushed back hard against new standards for teaching African-American history in middle schools that suggested enslavement was a “personal benefit” to the enslaved because it provided skills and that Black residents of Rosewood and Ocoee bore some responsibility for the massacres. She has questioned the credentials of the panel that wrote the new standards. Thompson told the Tallahassee Democrat she provided new language for the standards that was “less inflammatory and less inaccurate” but was “totally ignored.”


She also proposed greater investment in programs for at-risk youth. “Statistics show that if you give young people a marketable skill and you help them navigate kind of an unfriendly environment, they are less likely to be a taker from the tax rolls in the sense that they are incarcerated or they need public housing. So let's invest on the front end rather than having to warehouse people on the back end.” Additionally, she opposes vouchers for private and religious schools.


Patience and progress

In the last year, Thompson chaired the Florida Museum of Black History Task Force, which worked to determine a location for the museum to tell the story of Black life in Florida. The task force chose history-rich St. Augustine where a 19th century open-air slave market existed as well as the nation’s first free Black settlement, civil rights demonstrations, lunch-counter sit-ins and marches.


During her term, Thompson was instrumental in passing the bipartisan 2022 Tyre Sampson Safety Act, which improves amusement park ride safety. It’s named for the teen who fell to his death from a ride at Orlando’s ICON Park. Earlier this year, she also sponsored legislation to reduce the number of baby/toddler hot car deaths. Although her bill — requiring cars to be equipped with a device to alert caregivers about a child in the car — did not pass, she signed on to related legislation sponsored by a Republican colleague to make April “Hot Car Awareness Month” and included a public relations campaign. “It’s at least a step forward,” she told VoxPopuli. She plans to reintroduce her device-alert bill next session.


Thompson, who made no-excuse vote-by-mail possible for all Floridians, worked with Bracy Davis to sponsor sweeping voting reforms this session. Called the Harry T. and Harriette V. Florida Voting Rights Act, this legislation — named for two of Florida’s earliest civil rights activists murdered by the Ku Klux Klan — would allow for same-day registration and voting; permanent mail-in ballot requests; a database for returning citizens to verify voting eligibility; and the elimination of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Office of Election Crimes and Security.

“I think it's so ironic that in 2020 Governor DeSantis said Florida was the template for the rest of the country, and that we had one of the best run and most secure elections in the history of the country. Well, if that is the case, then why in the next two or three years are you introducing all of this very regressive voting legislation?”


Although her Florida Voting Rights Act, which was supported by Equal Ground, Florida Rising, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the NAACP, was never put on the agenda to be heard, Thompson, if re-elected, said she’ll re-introduce it next session.

“I’ve been around long enough to know that things happen incrementally in the legislature,” she said during an April panel discussion hosted by the African American Chamber of Commerce. “It doesn’t happen all at once. That’s what keeps me working. You can whittle away a little at a time until you get what it is that you want.”

Norine Dworkin
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