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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Black caucus elects new chair who plans to leave office in Nov.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, talk on the floor of the Florida House.

AP

Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, talk on the floor of the Florida House.

15

March

The Florida Legislative Black Caucus elected its next leader, but she won't be in the Legislature for half of her term.

Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, was elected for a one-year term as chairwoman starting this summer while she campaigns for an Orlando congressional seat and leaves the state Senate after the November election.

"Sen. Thompson has served the caucus really well, which his why she won the election," said Rep. Ed Narain, D-Tampa, "and I think most members felt she deserved the position even if its only through November."

 

Traditionally, the caucus alternates its chair every year between the House and Senate. Narain is the outgoing chair, and Thompson was vice-chair during his tenure. She was not available for comment Tuesday.

But hers was not the only name on the ballot. Sen. Audrey Gibson, who does not plan to leave the Senate this November, also ran.

Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said she believed Thompson would not run because she's running for Congress.

"I was not certainly trying to upend my collegue," she said. "My understanding was that she wasn't running, and that was the only reason that I even considered it."

In November, the caucus will have to find another leader, and it's likely to be a senator. Gibson said she intends to run again. "I would certainly campaign," she said.

Gibson's focus in running to lead the caucus has been about returning "the glory days of the black caucus," she said.

"Its not negative," she said. "I think we raised more issues to the forefront than we have in the last few years collectively."

The caucus was founded in 1984 to adovcate in the Legislature for black Floridians. All 26 of its members are Democrats. The only black Republican in the Legislature, Rep. Mike Hill of Pensacola, declined to join the group.

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 1:13pm]

    

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