N.J. state lawmaker cites leadership, fortitude in quest for seat in Congress

U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey urged her colleagues in the House to take action on gun-safety legislation rather than staging moments of silence for victims of mass shootings.  (Mel Evans/AP Photo)

U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey urged her colleagues in the House to take action on gun-safety legislation rather than staging moments of silence for victims of mass shootings. (Mel Evans/AP Photo)

Among the four Democrats competing to replace retiring U.S. Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey is Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, who aims to become the first woman of color to represent the state in Congress.

Watson Coleman, 69,  has represented New Jersey’s 15th Legislative District since 1998.

An avid proponent of marriage equality, Watson Coleman said she’s never hesitated to act on her beliefs in the Legislature.

“When it comes to me and the extremists on the right wing of the Republican Party, I am going to push back, and I am going to stand up to their intimidation, and their baseless accusations of our president and of our Democratic caucus,” she said in a telephone interview.

Watson Coleman said it’s her fortitude that distinguishes her from her rivals in June 3 primary election.

“I think all of my colleagues are decent human beings and have worked on Democratic issues, but I’ve been a leader in those issues,” she said Watson Coleman said. “I’ve not had to, nor have I chosen to, stand back and wait to see how the tide is moving on the issue before I got out front and spoke on it.”

Watson Coleman, born in Camden, was the first African-American woman to lead the state’s Democratic Party. If elected, she’ll not only be the first woman of color to represent a New Jersey district in Congress, but will be the only woman among the state’s current 12-member House delegation.

A resident of Ewing, Watson Coleman has already secured the Mercer County Democrats’ endorsement. She faces physicist Andrew Zwicker along with veteran politicians state Sen. Linda Greenstein and Assemblyman Upendra Chivakula in the primary.

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