Democratic state Rep. Geraldine Thompson wasted little time entering the Tallahassee action,

Thompson, the new state representative for Florida’s House District 44 in southwest Orange County, has been here before, serving as both a state representative from another district and a state senator for a district that covered much of HD 44. But in 2016 she chose to run for Congerss and lost, and for two years she’s been on the outside looking in.

She is one of three new Orange County state representatives, all Democrats who flipped formerly-Republican districts, taking office, along with state Reps. Anna Eskamani of Orlando and Joy Goff-Marcil of Maitland.

With Thompson, of Orlando, it’s as if she never left. She’s setting her sights on election reform, environmental protection, and Civil Rights.

On Tuesday, hours after she was sworn in, Thompson took up the Democrats’ leadership in the House for elections reform, along with House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee. The move runs parallel with a call by Republicans for elections reform, though time will tell if the two paths will unite down the road.

“Cycle after cycle of elections have shown Florida to be ill-prepared, whether it’s the fact that we don’t have state-of-the-art machinery, whether the design of our ballots is problematic, whether it’s the voter purge, it’s all of those things that need to be addressed,” she said. “So I came with an interest in working on that and I expressed my interest.”

Thompson also wants to pursue the idea of turning the Florida Secretary of State into an elected position, and addressing the signature-matching issue and the timings of mail-in ballot acceptance and recount timings. These may keep the paths apart.

Her first priority, she said, is one she hopes the new administration of Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis and Florida Legislature Republicans will also be pursuing, addressing polluted water runoff that ultimatley spills into Lake Okeechobee, and then into the coastal waters, shocking the water. It’s one of DeSantis’s priorities that set him apart from Adam Putnam in the Republican primary and disarmed his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, in the general election.

Much of South Florida blames the Central Florida region for its runoff, and Thompson acknowledged that’s a part of the problem. She’s interested in focusing on septic tank seepage, agricultural and lawn chemical runoff, and water control. It’s an issue, Thompson said, she carries over from her tenure in the Florida Senate, as “a continuing concern.”

“Everybody is blaming everybody. But we’ve got to get a handle on it,” Thompson said.

“I’m interested in some restrictions on fertilizer to protect the environment. We have all of these fish kills and algae blooms and red tides, and I think that’s a beginning. The environment is something I want to focus on. And it’s a bipartisan issue, and I want to work across the aisle to get something done.”

Thompson, who initiated the legislation that eventually becaome a bipartisan, unanimously-approved Florida Legislature resolution to express remorse and seek pardons for the Groveland Four, said she’d like to take it a step further, pursuing establishment of a state Civil Rights museum. She noted that other states including Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi have such museums.

“Florida has nothing, even though Florida was at the forefront, with the demonstrations at St. Augustine, with Dr. [Martin Luther] King there, the first martyrs to Civil Rights movements, Harry T. Moore and his wife Harriette,” she said.

“And so I think that we are short-sighted and we don’t honor the sacrifices of so many people who brought us to where we are when we don’t celebrate our Civil Rights history. So I’m going to work on getting a Civil Rights museum established in the state of Florida,” she added.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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