When Bonnie Watson Coleman ran for Congress to replace Rush Holt as he returned to his roots in science, her campaign took on a larger life among progressives in New Jersey beyond the borders of the 12th congressional district. It wasn’t merely because she would become the first African-American woman New Jersey would ever – ever – send to Congress. That was bonus. She had already been the first African-American woman Assembly Speaker, the first to run the NJ Democratic Party. There she was, out front in many issues we care about – marriage equality, the fight for a NJ livable wage, poverty, and Paid Family Leave included. She emerged as first among three other remarkable candidates; distinguished Senator Linda Greenstein, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (now BPU commissioner) and scientist Andrew Zwicker (now LD16 Assemblyman). But for me, she mattered because of Barbara Buono’s 2013 campaign challenging Chris Christie. That year, for their own reasons, many establishment Dems ignored or outright undermined the efforts by a fellow Dem to topple Christie; you know that story well. But BWC? No, she stepped up and took the role of campaign chair. It was refreshing solidarity amidst the posturing, preening and skullduggery of lesser party hacks.
Congrats: So, a big shout-out today to Bonnie Watson Coleman who is named the Progressive Freshman of the Year by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Here’s what the Caucus co-chairs Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota had to say about the Garden State’s Bonnie:
“I’m thrilled that Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman is being honored with our New Member Award. Bonnie has been a leader in Congress and within the CPC from the moment she was sworn into office. She mobilizes members to speak out for progressive principles, and her voice has quickly become one of the most trusted on Capitol Hill. Bonnie represents the very best of where the progressive movement is going, and I’m excited to see her lead us there.” – Grijalva
“Since arriving in Congress, Bonnie Watson Coleman has been a leader on raising the wage, improving our schools, and protecting women’s rights. She is a true progressive, and the obvious choice for progressive Freshman Member of the Year.” – Ellison
Here’s what BWC had to say:
“I came to Congress to fight for change ― for better wages for American workers, for better schools for our kids, for affordable housing accessible to every family, and for an economy that allows folks who play by the rules to get ahead. I’m honored to be recognized for what I’ve done so far. But more than anything, this is a reminder that there’s still plenty of work to do.”
About CPC: The CPC is the largest caucus within the House Dem Caucus; in recent years mainly a phenomenon of the House. Of 75 House members, Watson Coleman Watson and Frank Pallone are the only two from New Jersey. Neither NJ senator belongs. There is only one member from the U.S. Senate; co-founder Bernie Sanders.