Bonnie Watson Coleman

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Bonnie Watson Coleman
Bonnie Watson Coleman.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 12th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Preceded by Rush D. Holt Jr.
Member of the
New Jersey General Assembly
from the 15th Legislative District
In office
January 13, 1998 – January 5, 2015
New Jersey General Assembly Majority Leader
In office
January 12, 2006 – January 12, 2010
Preceded by Joseph J. Roberts
Succeeded by Joseph Cryan
Personal details
Born (1945-02-06) February 6, 1945 (age 72)
Camden, New Jersey
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) William Coleman (m. 1995)
Residence Ewing Township, New Jersey, U.S.
Website Senate website

Bonnie Watson Coleman (born February 6, 1945) is an American Democratic Party politician, who has served as the U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 12th congressional district since 2015. She previously served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1998 to 2015 for the 15th Legislative District.[1] She is the first black woman in Congress from New Jersey.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Watson Coleman received a B.A. from Thomas Edison State College in 1985, and attended Rutgers University.[1] Born in Camden and raised Baptist,[3] she currently resides in Ewing Township.[4]

She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.[5]

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.

She served on the Governing Boards Association of State Colleges from 1987 to 1998 and as its chair from 1991 to 1993. Watson Coleman was a member of the Ewing Township Planning Board from 1996 to 1997. She was a member of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey Board of Trustees from 1981 to 1998 and was its chair from 1990 to 1991.[1]

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.

Watson Coleman served as the Majority Leader of the New Jersey General Assembly from 2006 to 2010, as well as the New Jersey Democratic State Chairwoman from 2002 to 2006.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]


Following the announcement that Congressman Rush Holt would not be seeking another term in office, Bonnie Watson Coleman announced her intention to run for New Jersey's 12th congressional district.[6] Assemblywoman Watson Coleman is the first African -American woman elected to represent a New Jersey district in the United States House of Representatives[7] and is currently the only female member of New Jersey's congressional delegation.[8]

On June 3, 2014, she won the Democratic primary for the 12th congressional district.[9] She won the general election on November 4, 2014, defeating Republican candidate Alieta Eck.[10] She won 60.9% of the vote.[11]


On March 3, 2015, Coleman participated with fellow Democrats in the boycott of the speech delivered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress.[12]

In March 2016, Coleman, along with Rep. Robin Kelly and Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, founded the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls.[13] "Black women and girls are disproportionately affected by myriad socioeconomic issues that diminish their quality of life and threaten the well-being of their families and communities. The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls gives black women a seat at the table for the crucial discussion on the policies that impact them while also providing a framework for creating opportunities and eliminating barriers to success for black women," they announced in a press release at the time.[14] They were inspired by the #SheWoke Committee, a group of 7 activists that reached out to lawmakers and staffers to start.[15]

She co-sponsored the International Megan's Law, to combat child exploitation and other sex crimes abroad. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law in February 2016.[16]

Committee assignments[edit]


Coleman speaking at the 2017 Women's March in Trenton, New Jersey

Watson Coleman has been a strong supporter of programs allowing criminal offenders to reenter society. As a New Jersey Assemblywoman, she sponsored a bill that bars companies with more than 15 employees from conducting criminal background checks on candidates during the interview process. Watson Coleman's two sons, William Carter-Watson and Jared C. Coleman, were sentenced to seven years in jail after holding up the Kids-R-Us store at Mercer Mall with a rifle as it was about to close on March 12, 2001. Watson-Coleman refuses to discuss the incident.[17] Watson Coleman has also introduced legislation to restrict the ownership of weapons such as the ones used by her sons during their crime.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Assemblywoman Watson Colemans's legislative web page, New Jersey Legislature; accessed June 5, 2011.
  2. ^ "2014: Not a Landmark Year for Women, Despite Some Notable Firsts", Center for American Women and Politics, November 5, 2014. Accessed November 5, 2016. "Love and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) are the first African American women in Congress from their states."
  3. ^
  4. ^ Assembly Member Bonnie Watson Coleman, Project Vote Smart; accessed August 10, 2007.
  5. ^ Schaller, Thomas F.; King-Meadows, Tyson (2006). Devolution and Black state legislators : challenges and choices in the twenty-first century. Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-7914-6729-9. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ D'Amico, Diane. "Civil rights struggle still alive in US, Watson Coleman tells Stockton symposium", The Press of Atlantic City, October 6, 2015. Accessed June 4, 2017. "The first black woman to represent New Jersey in Congress, Watson Coleman said Congress has not addressed the country’s economic divide and does not even seem willing to step up to the plate."
  8. ^ Shipkowski, Bruce for Associated Press. "For women in NJ politics, still a long way to go", Courier-Post, July 25, 2016. Accessed June 4, 2017. "In New Jersey, Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman's election in 2014 made her the first woman to represent the state in Congress in more than a decade and only 36 of 120 seats in the state Legislature are held by women."
  9. ^ Davis, Mike. "Watson Coleman wins Democratic primary for 12th congressional district". Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "New Jersey Election Results". New York Times. Retrieved June 3, 2017. 
  12. ^ "WHIP LIST: 56 Democrats to skip Netanyahu speech to Congress". The Hill. March 3, 2015. Retrieved March 4, 2015. 
  13. ^ Helm, Angela (March 26, 2016). "3 Black Congresswomen Create 1st Caucus on Black Women and Girls". The Root. 
  14. ^ "Reps. Watson Coleman, Kelly, Clarke, Announce Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls". U.S. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman. Retrieved June 3, 2017. 
  15. ^ Grimaldi, Christine (April 29, 2016). "#SheWoke Fuels First Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls Event". Retrieved June 3, 2017. 
  16. ^ "". Retrieved June 3, 2017. 
  17. ^ "Mercer County hires Bonnie Watson Coleman's son to entry-level parks position". Retrieved 2017-01-19. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph J. Roberts
Majority Leader of the New Jersey General Assembly
2006 – 2010
Succeeded by
Joseph Cryan
Preceded by
Leonard Lance
Chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee
2002 – 2006
Succeeded by
Nellie Pou
Party political offices
Preceded by
Joseph J. Roberts
Chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee
2002 – 2006
Succeeded by
Joseph Cryan
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Rush D. Holt Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 12th congressional district

January 3, 2015 – present
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mimi Walters
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Bruce Westerman