Editor's note: Candidates responses have not been edited for grammar and are presented as received.
City/town of residence: Windermere
Spouse: Emerson R. Thompson Jr. of Jacksonville, FL
Children: Laurise A. Thomas, Emerson R. Thompson III, Elizabeth R. Thompson
Grandchildren: Jasmyne N. James, Imani G. Thomas, Kiara R. Thompson, Symone P. Thompson
Education: Miami-Dade Community College, AA, 1968; University of Miami, Bachelor of Education, 1970; Florida State University, MS, 1973
Qualifications: Elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2018, reelected subsequently; served in the Senate from 2012 until 2016; served in the House from 2006 until 2012; Democratic Leader pro tempore 2008-2010
What are the key differences between you and your opponent?
The key difference between me and the other candidate in this race is my willingness to tackle tough issues, controversial topics, and difficult challenges. For example, I worked for multiple years to bring about the exoneration of the Groveland Four, the authorization of a specialty license plate for the Divine Nine, and the placement of a statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune in Statuary Hall in Washington, D. C. as a representation of one of Florida’s greatest Floridians. Recently, in 2020, I responded to members of the community who wanted a portion of Silver Star Road designated to honor Ocoee Massacre victim, Julius ‘July’ Perry. Though Ocoee is not in my current House district, I responded to the community and filed a bill for the Julius ‘July’ Perry Road designation after my opponent refused to seek the designation even though Ocoee is in her district. The road was designated in 2020 and was celebrated in recognition of the 100th year after the Ocoee Massacre. When funds were sought to create scholarships for descendants of the Ocoee Massacre, as Ranking Member on the K-12 Appropriations Committee, I met with the committee chair to advocate for Democratic member bills including the scholarships. The other candidate in this race filed a bill to create the Ocoee scholarships; however, the committee chair indicated that she had never met with her to explain the bill or to seek funding for the scholarships. I met with Senator Randolph Bracy who initiated and sponsored the scholarship bill in the Senate. I informed him of the problems in the House K-12 Appropriations Committee and he worked with colleagues in the House to create and fund the scholarships which bear his name.
What are the values and morals that have guided your life and how will you use them as District 15 senator?
I strongly believe in fairness and equal treatment of all people. These values and morals guide my work as a legislator who is a champion for the least, the lost and the left out. I also believe in transparency and work to communicate with those who elected me to serve as their voice in Tallahassee.
What are the three most pressing issues facing our state today, and how will you address them?
The three top issues in Florida are affordable housing, the environment, and income inequality. I would address housing by limiting the number of properties purchased in communities by equity firms and retrofitting abandoned buildings, which could provide affordable dwellings. I would address the environmental issues by adjusting Florida’s environmental policy to include increased generation of solar energy to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels that add to our carbon footprint. As well, we must reduce nutrients that runoff and cause pollution of our water supply including the aquifer and water bodies. Lastly, I would address income inequality by continuing to advocate for a livable wage of $15 per hour.
What is your plan to foster communication with District 15 constituents?
Prior to COVID-19 restrictions, I held Town Hall meetings with the City Councils of each community within my district to report on matters that arose in Tallahassee and to obtain their input on challenges yet to be addressed. I would continue these Town Hall meetings.
As District 15 senator, describe how you will work across the aisle?
I seek Republican cosponsors for legislation that I propose and work to establish relationships with colleagues across the aisle. Many of the bills that I have ushered through the legislature have been passed with bipartisan support.
Recent state bills will have an effect on Florida’s public education system and its curriculum. What is your position on some of these changes?
Per pupil funding in Florida remains among the lowest in the Country. We are facing a teacher shortage and retention problem. Rather than address these issues, legislation has been passed to identify instances where conservative opinions might not be allowed in colleges and universities. Divergent opinions, even those that make students uncomfortable, are promoted for colleges and universities while issues that might make youngsters in the K-12 system uncomfortable are prohibited. Students who may have questions regarding their gender identity are now restricted from addressing them in a classroom setting and many times are left to make decisions based on the internet, peers, or social interaction. I believe Florida is heading in the wrong direction as education has become politicized. We need to change course and deal with many of the real issues I addressed earlier in this response.
What is your opinion on the dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District?
I think the dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District would have a negative effect on Central Florida and the State as a whole. Taxpayers would be left to shoulder the costs of roads, conservation, emergency services, and utilities that Walt Disney World now funds. In addition, many companies may question whether it is prudent to move to a state that seeks to punish its largest employer due to differing views on social issues. In fact, New York now has an advertising campaign that encourages companies to move to that state “where you can say anything you want”.
If elected, what would you like to have accomplished after your first term as District 15 senator?
At the completion of my first term in the Florida Senate, I want to have passed the Tyre Sampson Bill to address the safety of amusement rides in Florida. The Tyre Sampson Bill would honor the life of the 14-year-old youngster who fell 400 feet to his death on an amusement ride in my district on International Drive while on Spring Break. The bill would address training for operators, frequency of inspections for rides, signage to indicate the height and weight restrictions, maintenance of rides, and other critical issues. This is not a partisan issue and we all have a stake in ensuring that visitors to our state are secure and that their health, safety, and welfare are a top priority of the Florida Legislature.