Geraldine “Geri” Thompson
Florida Senate District 15
State Representative for District 44, 2018 to present (Also served 2006-2012)
State Senator 2012-2016
Founder, Wells’ Built Museum
Miami-Dade Community College, A.A., 1968
University of Miami, B.A., 1970
Florida State, Master's, 1973
“A known quantity” who takes on the “tough challenges” was how state Rep. Geraldine “Geri” Thompson described herself during a July WESH-TV forum with state Rep. Kamia Brown.
The two women — both Democrats, both Black, both respected lawmakers from neighboring districts — are vying to represent District 15 in the Florida Senate. The area includes Winter Garden, Oakland and Ocoee.
It’s just the two of them in this district race. With no other contenders, the winner here goes right to the Florida Senate. Thompson, of Windermere, is hoping that having served five terms in the House and who occupied this particular Senate seat before state Sen. Randolph Bracy vacated it to run for Congress, voters will send her back again.
(By the way, those who vote by mail can thank Thompson, 73. It was her legislation that now allows every Floridian to vote with a mail ballot without needing a special reason to request one.)
Thompson told WESH-TV that her first priority in the new legislative session will be to file the Tyre Sampson Bill that will ensure theme park attractions are “appropriately scrutinized” for safety. The bill is named for the 14-year-old who fell to his death riding the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park while vacationing with his family.
One of Thompson’s signature achievements was the years-long fight for exoneration of Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas — the young Black men known as the Groveland Four, who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in 1949. The men were posthumously pardoned in 2019. Thompson fought for their complete exoneration, which was finally granted in November 2021. She’s since pushed to create a scholarship program (mirroring the Randolph Bracy Ocoee Scholarship) for the men’s descendants and other students in Groveland as well as low-interest loans for Black-owned businesses in Groveland.
Thompson was also instrumental in getting a portion of Silver Star Road in Ocoee designated as Julius “July” Perry Memorial Hwy., telling WESH-TV, “The community came to me even though that was not my district, that was Rep. Brown’s district, and asked me if I could shepherd that through and I was able to get that done.”
Brown countered, explaining that the community had initially come to her, but she directed petitioners to Thompson. Brown added that she admired Thompson as a champion of education and supporter of history. “I knew you’d be a great person to file that bill,” Brown said. “And we thank you for that.”
A former Orange County Public Schools teacher and Valencia College administrator, Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, has pushed to standardize teaching about Black history and the Holocaust throughout the state’s 67 school districts.
Thompson pointed to the Tops Supermarket Massacre in Buffalo as a reason programs like this one are needed, telling WESH-TV, that the shooter “learned to de-value African-American lives in society” but the “classroom is where you deal with it. The classroom is the solution rather than the problem. … We can’t whitewash history and stick our heads in the sand and pretend that factual occurrences did not happen in the United States. We get to a point where we understand each other better, we value each other better if we know each other better, which means making sure the classroom and what we teach reflects the diversity of our population.”
On her campaign website, Thompson highlights her legislation ending workplace discrimination against pregnant people as well as her ongoing advocacy for affordable housing, workers’ unions, Medicaid expansion, increased teacher pay and decreased student testing.
She has also worked to pass legislation to include disability, gender and gender identity within hate crimes laws; legalize recreational marijuana; enumerate incarcerated peoples’ rights and make them aware of those rights; and ban assault rifles.
She told WESH-TV that one of keys to passing “sensible” gun laws was to "bring along allies, like law enforcement, because they’re asked to go into situations with people with military-style weapons with enough rounds to kill hundreds of people."