In a statement released by her office on August 8, 2015, Florida state Sen. Geraldine Thompson announced that she was “considering a campaign for Florida Congressional District 10.” Under the newly redistricted congressional map, her state district would end up inside the larger federal district. Redistricting would require her to run again (in the “new” district) in 2016. (Original publish date: June 30, 2016)
“If I have to run,” she asked in the prepared statement, “why not aim for the next level in my legislative service?”
Two months and 4 days later, on October 12, she made her announcement at the Withers-Maguire House community center in Ocoee. The location was strategic: Ocoee is the west Orange County suburb that has long been part of her Florida legislative districts and it is central to the 10th Congressional District.
The announcement did something else: it brought her into a fight for the seat against Val Demings, who has had her eye on the seat since she campaigned for it and narrowly lost to Republican Daniel Webster in 2012.
Two other persons are running for the seat in the Democratic primary– Bob Poe and Attorney Fatima Fahmy, but Thompson and Demings are the clear front-runners.
The Republican incumbent Daniel Webster has left the district and is now running for the seat in Congressional District 11. Since no other Republican qualified for District 10 before the cut-off date, Thuy Lowe, the only Republican on the ballot for District 10, will be able to sit out the primary and wait for the results of the Democrat race.
Who knows? With three women of color vying for the District 10 seat, Bob Poe might actually benefit from the splitting of the minority vote.
Thompson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1948. She came to Florida when her family moved to the Sunshine State in 1955, and grew up in the town of Perrine where members of her family worked in agriculture and construction.
She received a bachelor’s degree with honors in journalism and business education in 1970 from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, where she enrolled shortly after the school ended racial segregation.
She has worked in state government as Executive Secretary to Representative Gwendolyn Sawyer Cherry, the first African American woman to serve in the Florida House of Representatives.
She has a Masters in Communication from Florida State University (1973), and worked as a teacher in Orange County Public Schools for six years before accepting a position as Director of the Equal Opportunity Office at Valencia Community College where she served for 24 years as Assistant to the President.
At Valencia, she created the College Reach Out Program that has continued for more than 30 years and enabled thousands of low income students to obtain a college education.
Geraldine served as a delegate to numerous Democratic National Conventions, including the historic 2008 and 2012 conventions. She spearheaded the effort to save the historic Wells’Built Hotel, which is now a museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She participated in an oral history project and used research from the project in her first book, Black America: Orlando, Florida.
She was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2006 and the Florida Senate in 2012. To her credit, as a legislator, Senator Thompson filed and shepherded to passage bills to:
- outlaw the genital mutilation of young women and girls,
- prohibit discrimination based on pregnancy under Florida’s Civil Rights Laws,
- provide for compensation of wrongfully incarcerated individuals when a case is nolle prossed,
- allow for routine testing for HIV in a medical setting, and
- provide compensation for a child injured on public school grounds.
She has fought for the inclusion of black farmers in the dispensing of medical marijuana, a state-controlled giveaway that at the present will make 5 “networked” families extraordinarily rich. Right now, the black farmers can only get in once the number of users reaches 250,000 — a number that will take years to attain.
Thompson served as Democratic Leader Pro Tempore in the Florida House, Chair of the Women’s Legislative Caucus, Vice Chair of the Florida Black Legislative Caucus and the first African American Chair of the Orange County Legislative Delegation. She was elected this past March by her peers to chair the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. Her 10 years in office– 6 as a member of the House of Representatives and 4 in the Senate– gives her undisputed legislative experience and knowledge of the process, and like every incumbent she will enjoy considerable name recognition.
Her platform revolves around an “Our Families First” agenda, which focuses on increasing the minimum wage, supporting paid sick leave and passing comprehensive immigration reform. Still, she faces aggressive opponents in Demings, Poe and Fahmy.
Val Demings has serious name recognition, too, and also has the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She has been endorsed by a number of organizations and Democratic leaders like House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. She has a highly motivated, well-organized support group that has outperformed Thompson in the most crucial area of raising much-needed cash.
Thompson says she’s in the race to the end. August 30 is rapidly approaching.
Thompson has notably stood out in her commitment to ensuring that government agencies spend advertising dollars with the black press. No bias; just the facts.