Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson is returning to the Senate after being elected in the new Senate District 15 Tuesday.
Thompson defeated Democratic Rep. Kamia Brown in an open Primary Election for a northwest Orange County Senate District with a strong Democratic lean. No Republicans or other candidates filed to run there, so Tuesday’s election became the finale, open to all voters.
Thompson will succeed Democratic Rep. Randolph Bracy, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress rather than seek another term in the state Senate.
Since 2018, Thompson has served in HD 44, which overlaps SD 15. She also previously served in a Senate District that once covered much of the same area, and in another House District, with a legislative career dating to 2006.
Since 2016, Brown has served House District 45, which is fully included in the new SD 15.
It was a contest between two determined and experienced lawmakers who agree on many of the issues — holding largely to the Democratic platform — and even on the possible solutions.
But they differ widely on legislative style and strategy and the campaign has focused on whose approach to lawmaking has been more effective and more representative for the district. That contest led to hostility, with Brown charging Thompson has lost the ability to work well with others, particularly Republicans, and consequently doesn’t get much done.
In the end, Thompson made her case to voters. She took 53% of the vote to 47% for Brown.
With redistricting, SD 15 takes in most of the northwest corner of Orange County, starting with the agricultural areas around Zellwood and the lush conservation areas of Wekiva, sweeping through Apopka, northern Winter Garden and Ocoee, and stretching through the West Side of Orlando to Parramore and Oakridge.
The district combines farmers, small towns, golf course communities, typical suburbia, and working class and low-income inner-city neighborhoods.
Both candidates focused on affordable housing and gun law reforms to reduce gun violence, particularly in schools, as priorities.
Thompson, who founded and runs the Wells’Built Museum in Orlando, talks about the need for taking tough political fights, noting she did so in 2020 when she successfully went to court to invalidate Gov. Ron DeSantis’ appointment of Renatha Francis to the Supreme Court of Florida. Francis has since been reappointed.
Thompson said something has to be done to restrict equity firms coming into Florida, particularly into low-income areas, and buying up housing. She also proposed retrofitting strip malls for housing, creating incentives for the development of affordable and accessible housing, and vowed further protection of the Sadowski Fund.
Thompson also has turned her attention to amusement park safety, a critical issue in Central Florida that was highlighted last spring by last March’s tragic death of a teenager on the FreeFall ride at ICON Park in Orlando.
“My first bill is going to be the Tyre Sampson law. I was part of a conference this morning with Yarnell Sampson, the father of Tyre Sampson … and Ben Crump. And my first objective is going to make sure that these amusement rides are safe for the people visiting Orlando and Central Florida, and the state of Florida for that matter,” Thompson said.