Bonnie Watson Coleman

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Bonnie Watson Coleman

Template:TOCnestleft Bonnie Watson Coleman(born February 6, 1945) is an American Democratic Party politician, who has served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1998 to 2015, where she represented the 15th Legislative District.[1]In 2015, she became the first black woman in Congress from New Jersey.


Watson Coleman received a B.A. from Thomas Edison State College in 1985, and attended Rutgers University.[2] Born in Camden, she currently resides in Ewing Township. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

State politics

Watson Coleman served as the Majority Leader of the Assembly since 2006 to 2010. She serves in the Assembly on the Legislative Services commission. She had previously served on the Appropriations Committee (as Chairwoman from 2002–2006), the Budget Committee, and the Joint Budget Oversight Committee.

Watson Coleman served as New Jersey Democratic State Chairwoman from 2002–2006. She served on the Governing Boards Association of State Colleges from 1987–1998 and as its chair from 1991-1993. Watson Coleman was a member of the Ewing Township Planning Board from 1996-1997. She was a member of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey Board of Trustees from 1981–1998 and was its chair from 1990-1991.

In 1974, she established the first Office of Civil Rights, Contract Compliance and Affirmative Action, in the New Jersey Department of Transportation and remained the Director of that office for six years. In 1980, Watson Coleman joined the Department of Community Affairs, where she held a number of positions including, Assistant Commissioner, responsible for Aging, Community Resources, Public Guardian and Women Divisions.

Watson Coleman became the first African American woman to lead the State party when she was elected Chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, on February 4, 2002.[3]

Humanitarian Needs in Cuba letter

December 16 2021 , House Rules Committee Chair James McGovern (D-MA), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gregory Meeks (D-NY), House Appropriations subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations Chair Barbara Lee (D-CA), and House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Energy Chair Bobby Rush (D-IL) led 114 Members of Congress in a letter to President Biden asking him to prioritize the well-being of the Cuban people as they experience the worst economic and humanitarian crisis in recent history...

In the wake of this year’s protests, the members urged the administration to support the Cuban people by suspending U.S. regulations that prevent food, medicine, remittances, and other humanitarian assistance from reaching the Cuban people...

Signatories included Bonnie Watson Coleman.[4]

Our Revolution

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Karine Jean-Pierre connection


Karine Jean-Pierre with Bonnie Watson Coleman and Barbara Lee.

Labor Caucus

The Labor Caucus is an official caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2021 members included Bonnie Watson Coleman .[5]

People's Charter endorser

The People's Charter was released by the Working Families Party shortly before the 2020 election.

Endorsers included Bonnie Watson Coleman.

Defense spending cuts letter

May 19, 2020.

Dear Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Thornberry:

We write to request a reduction in defense spending during the coronavirus pandemic. As you draft this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), we encourage you to authorize a level of spending below last year’s authorized level. Congress must remain focused on responding to the coronavirus pandemic and distributing needed aid domestically. In order to do so, appropriators must have access to increased levels of non-defense spending which could be constrained by any increase to defense spending.

Initiated by Mark Pocan and Barbara Lee.[6]

Co-signatories included Bonnie Watson Coleman .

Progressive Change Campaign Committee

Progressive Change Campaign Committee helped 5 candidates from the "Elizabeth Warren wing" of American politics including Ruben Gallego (AZ-7), Brian Schatz (HI-Sen), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Mike Honda (CA-17), and Pat Murphy (IA-1) defeat more conservative opponents in tough 2014 primary battles.[7]


2014 staff included Robert Field, and Mike Spadoro.[8]

People’s Organization for Progress rally

Bonnie watson Coleman

On March 27, 2014, public education advocates from across New Jersey, gathered at the NJ State House in Trenton to protest destructive school privatization "reforms" that threaten to destroy public education not only in urban centers like Newark and Camden, but throughout the Garden State. In addition to the removal of controversial Newark schools superintendent Cami Anderson, protestors called for: - An end to the emphasis on high-stakes testing - An end to attacks on teachers

People’s Organization for Progress members supported and participated in the rally, as did the Office of Councilman Ras Baraka, and Ras Baraka himself.[9]


In April 2014, Watson Coleman’s campaign for Congress recently announced their campaign committee and had already received endorsements from the Women’s Campaign Fund, Bishop Reginald Jackson, the Mercer County Democratic Committee, the Union County Democratic Committee and elected officials from throughout the 12th Congressional District along with support from labor groups including the New Jersey Laborers Union, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, CWA 1039, the SEIU NJ State Council, AFSCME Local 979 out of Middlesex County and Corrections USA. The campaign has also been endorsed by national Progressive Democratic organizations the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Blue America PAC and Progressive Democrats of America[10]

ARA PAF endorsement, 2014

The Alliance for Retired Americans Political Action Fund endorsed Bonnie Watson Coleman in 2014.[11]

Baraka fundraiser

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka headlined the host committee for an October 14 fundraiser for state Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15).

Baraka and Watson Coleman were joined at Duke’s Southern Table in downtown Newark by a host of Essex Democratic politicians, including state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) as well as state Assemblywomen Grace Spencer (D-29), Eliana Pintor-Marin (D-29) and Cleopatra Tucker (D-28).

Newark Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins and Chris James, an East Orange councilman and the New Jersey Democratic State Committee Executive Director, were also present, as was organizer Michellene Davis, an executive vice president at Barnabas Health.[12]

Baraka endorsement

Newark Mayor-elect Ras Baraka endorsed Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer), May 2015, in her bid to succeed U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, Jr. (D-12th Dist.) in Congress.

In a campaign news release, Baraka lauded Watson Coleman as a “tireless advocate for civil rights in New Jersey.

“Bonnie is not a politician who makes decisions based on polls and focus groups; she fights for the things she believes in without hesitation. She would bring that same determination with her to Washington,” Baraka said.[13]


PDA endorsement

The Progressive Democrats of America Co-Founder and National Director Tim Carpenter and State Chair Mary Ellen Marino today endorsed Bonnie Watson Coleman for the Democratic nomination in the 12th Congressional District.

Progressive Democrats of America is a grassroots PAC whose mission is to elect Democrats who have shown long-term commitment and dedication to fighting for progressive principles. Carpenter and Marino released the following statement on their group’s endorsement for Watson Coleman:

“Assemblywoman Watson Coleman has proven herself time and again to be someone who will stand and fight for progressive values. With Congressman Holt retiring, we need a leader who will stand with President Obama and progressive Democrats and fight to defend middle class families against the Tea Party and their billionaire buddies. Now, more than ever, we need someone in Congress who will work to pass stronger gun laws, protect Social Security and Medicare, strengthen equal pay laws and improve access to affordable care. Bonnie Watson Coleman has always stood on the front lines and never shied away from taking on the tough fights, and we know she will continue to be a champion of principle in Washington as well.”[14]

Progressive Democrats of America 2014 endorsements were;[15]


PDA New Jersey state coordinator, Mary Ellen Marino, Bonnie Watson Coleman

In solidarity, Conor Boylan and Andrea Miller, PDA Executive Co-Directors, Judy Hess, PDA National Field Coordinator.[16]

"Future Progressive Champions"

Just after the 2014 elections, Progressive Democrats of America stated;[17]

It was a great day for our endorsed candidates and a worse than expected day for Democrats overall. All of our Board Members: Representatives Ellison, Grijalva, Conyers, Lee, and McGovern won! Our House Champions: Representatives Grayson, Schakowsky, Pocan and Nolan won! Future Progressive Champions:Ted Lieu and Bonnie Watson Coleman won!

Congressional Progressive Caucus

In January 2015, Bonnie Watson Coleman was listed as a new member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.[18]

Congressional Black Caucus

In January 2015 Bonnie Watson Coleman was listed as a new member of the Congressional Black Caucus for the 114th Congress:[19]

"Progressive Agenda"

Signers of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's May 12, 2015 launched The Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality included US Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman .[20]

Voting Rights Act forum

The 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the subject of a forum scheduled for February 2015 at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School No. 6.

The forum, from 6-10 p.m., featured Richard Smith, New Jersey state president of the NAACP, as the keynote speaker. Other invited speakers included Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a Mercer County Democrat who was elected to Congress in 2014, John Harmon, president of the African-American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, Larry Hamm, chairman of the People’s Organization for Progress, and Alton Maddox, chairman of the United African Movement.

Tammeisha Smith, a vice president with the Alamo Insurance Group, will serve as moderator. The forum is sponsored by a Passaic organization, the Community Unity Leadership Council, and the People’s Organization for Progress.[21]

New Jersey Citizen Action awards


New Jersey Citizen Action awards, given out May 2015, went to the Honorable Bonnie Watson Coleman, Seth Anderson-Oberman, Andrea Bowen, Evelyn Mejil, Gwen Robinson & Santander Bank, and the two Evanoff-Shuchter Award recipients were Sy Larson and Jean Pierce.[22]

For her lifelong commitment to continuing her family's legacy in the fight for social, economic, and racial justice for all, and her ability to shatter racial and gender barriers as the first African American woman to serve as Majority Leader of the New Jersey General Assembly, the first African American woman to serve as the Chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, and most recently, the first African American woman to represent New Jersey in Congress.

Bonnie Watson Coleman hugged Seth Anderson-Oberman, after his speech.

Anti-TPP letters

The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal "could only lead to the offshoring of U.S. jobs, especially in the service sector, and the erosion of America wages, nine newly-elected Democrats said in a letter to the president. Overall, 13 of 17 newly-elected Democrats are opposing Fast Track".

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) led the efforts of a group of the letter writers and his version was signed by Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania's 13th District; Mark DeSaulnier of California's 11th District; Debbie Dingell of Michigan's 12th District; Brenda Lawrence of Michigan's 14th District; Ted Lieu of California's 33rd District; Kathleen Rice of New York's 4th District; Mark Takai of Hawaii's 1st District; and Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey's 12th District.

"[W]e believe this legislation lacked sufficient guarantees to ensure Congress' voice in shaping the substance of international trade agreements negotiated by the Administration," another group of freshman Democratic legislators wrote. "Our concern is that previous versions of TPA legislation did not ensure sufficient input of our constituents' concerns about labor, environmental, and human rights protections that must be essential in the trade deals you are currently negotiating."

Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts' 6th District, Pete Aguilar of California's 31st District and Norma Torres of California's 35th District a the second letter.[23]

Working Families Party gala

September 2015, In West Orange, Analilia Mejia pulled up to the venue for the evening’s New Jersey Working Families gala, a banquet hall with a strong Jersey vibe: mirrors, marble, patterned carpet. Bumper stickers reading “Kicking Ass for the Working Class” were available at the check-in table. The evening’s speakers included Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, a New Jersey lawmaker the Working Families Party has championed since she was in the state assembly, and Representative Keith Ellison, the Minnesotan who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus. .[24]

New Jersey Working Families executive director Analilia Mejia ( left) and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Trenton) delivered petitions to Trenton mayor Eric Jackson, August 2014

August 5, 2014, as a statewide paid sick leave bill sits in Trenton awaiting debate later in the fall, a coalition of supporters took its case in the meantime to individual municipalities across New Jersey.

Coalition members took to the city halls of Trenton, Montclair, Irvington, Passaic and Paterson to deliver “thousands” of pro-legislation petitions aimed at triggering a local ballot initiative process.

According to the coalition, the five selected municipalities would fall under the provisions of the Faulkner Act, which sets the stage for a local ballot initiative process when 10 percent of those registered to vote in the prior election sign on to a given petition.

“Today, New Jerseyans around the state have delivered an unmistakable message to their elected leaders: earned sick days should be a basic workplace right,” New Jersey Working Families executive director Analilia Mejia said. “Voters understand that no workers should ever be forced to choose between their paycheck and their health. We all get sick, so we all need the time to care for ourselves and our families when illness strikes.”

Dena Mottola Jaborska, director of organizing and strategic program development and executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, said that the coalition is “still committed” to seeing the statewide bill pass, but noted that “anywhere we can find progress is a good place to start.”

“This is an unprecedented grassroots campaign to bring earned sick days laws to a diverse set of communities in New Jersey,” Mottola Jaborska said. “It positions New Jersey as a leader in the fight for this common sense policy and it builds unstoppable momentum for a statewide bill that will cover the 1.2 million New Jerseyans who can’t earn a single sick day.”[25]

J Street delegation

July 2017 seven members of Congress and 13 American Jewish leaders traveled to Israel and the West Bank on J Street’s eighth and largest congressional mission last week, led by the J Street Education Fund (JSEF).

Representatives Ami Bera (CA-7), Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Dwight Evans (PA-2), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) joined the J Street delegation.

During their time in the region, J Street’s eighth Congressional delegation engaged with a diverse array of Israeli and Palestinian voices. Members of Congress sat down with leading Israeli, Palestinian and American political leaders and government officials.

Throughout their visit to Israel and the Palestinian territory, participants explored the complex and nuanced realities of the region. Their extensive travels included trips to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron and Tel Aviv. They discussed the ongoing crisis in Gaza during visits to Israeli towns on its border. They met with key players from across the political spectrum, including Israeli settlers, Palestinian business leaders, social activists and security experts.

“With the US poised to continue playing an active role in pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace, it was essential that lawmakers see firsthand what is happening on the ground,” said J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. “As shifting regional dynamics open up new possibilities for peace and cooperation, this trip provided a critical opportunity for members of Congress to reflect on their role in helping to bring us closer to a two-state solution.”[26]

CAIR connection


Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman delivered the keynote address and the 2016 CAIR-NJ Annual Banquet.

CAIR’s efforts to dismantle Islamophobic rhetoric, support the American Muslim community, unite with others against all types of hate, and encourage civic engagement have played an instrumental role in helping move America forward.”

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) (October 2017).[27]


"CAIR’s efforts to dismantle Islamophobic rhetoric, support the American Muslim community, unite with others against all types of hate, and encourage civic engagement have played an instrumental role in helping move America forward.”

-Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) (October 2017)

Bonnie Watson Coleman wrote a letter of support to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on the occasion of their 24th anniversary in September 2018.[28]

United front for ACA

A number of local politicians and lawmakers, including New Jersey Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone, Donald Payne, Jr., Bill Pascrell, Albio Sires, Josh Gottheimer, and Bonnie Watson Coleman, and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, were present at a January 15th 2017, at 11:30 a.m. at the Robert Treat Hotel (50 Park Place) downtown Newark, rally to press for protection of the Affordable Care Act.

The law, often referred to as “Obamacare,” is currently under threat. The U.S. Senate voted at around 1:30 a.m this morning to approve a procedure that will let them potentially repeal parts of the ACA through a reconciliation bill, which enables the Congress to make changes to spending and tax legislation and, crucially, is filibuster proof. Reconciliation was used to pass the ACA in 2010.

Earlier today, Payne, Jr. delivered a speech on the floor of the U.S. Congress to highlight how Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act will affect Americans who depend on the law for their healthcare. He shared a story about how the ACA had helped a constituent who faced dire health problems, in order to humanize what is at stake if the legislation is repealed.[29]

Medicare For All Congressional Caucus founders

In August 2018 Medicare For All Congressional Caucus founding members included Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman.

Medicare for All Act

In February 2019 Rep. Pramila Jayapal introduced H.R.1384 - Medicare for All Act of 2019. By May 29 she had 110 co-sponsors including Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman.

HR 109 endorser

By February 20 2019 endorsers of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's HR 109 (Green New Deal) included Bonnie Watson Coleman.



  1. NJ Leg. bio
  2. NJ Leg. bio
  3. NJ Leg. bio
  4. [1]
  5. [2]
  6. [3]
  7. Progressive Change Campaign Committee
  8. [4]
  9. [ Vimeo, #NJEdMarch27from Ronen Kauffman 1 year ago / via Final C]
  11. PAF
  12. [ NJIn Newark, Baraka hosts fundraiser for Watson Coleman By Mark Bonamo | 10/13/14]
  13. True NJ, Newark mayor-elect supports Watson Coleman's bid for Congressy Mike Davis | Times of Trentonon May 28, 2014
  14. progressive group backs Watson Coleman in CD1 PolitickerNJ on Facebook, By Politicker Staff | 04/24/14
  15. Vote Smart]
  16. [! PDA Central NM chapter, WEEKLY DIGEST NOVEMBER 9 , 2014
  17. PDA Wednesday, 05 November 2014 00:00 Congratulations to the Winners!]
  18. CPC website, members, accessed Jan.15, 2015
  19. Congressional Black Caucus: Members (accessed on Jan. 16, 2015)
  21. [ Voting Rights Act is subject of Friday forum in Passaic FEBRUARY 24, 2015, 5:50 PM LAST UPDATED: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2015, 5:50 PM BY RICH COWEN]
  22. FB, New Jersey Citizen Action May 29
  23. CWA, Freshman Democrats Tell Obama to Change Course on Fast Track for the TPP Jan 29, 2015
  24. The Atlantic, The Pugnacious, Relentless Progressive Party That Wants to Remake America Molly Ball Jan 7, 2016
  25. [ East Orange momentum, paid sick leave supporters turn focus to 5 more N.J. cities By Andrew George, August 5, 2014]
  27. [ What They Say About CAIR (October25 2017)
  28. Letters of Support for CAIR accessed January 26 2020
  29. Brick City Live