By Bri Ozalas
The College Democrats invited N.J. General Assemblywoman and Congressional candidate Bonnie Watson Coleman Friday, Oct. 17, to speak on student issues and her political platform in hopes of encouraging students to vote in the midterm elections on Tuesday, Nov. 4.
Watson Coleman (NJ-D), a Mercer County native, the first African American woman to serve as the Majority Leader of the New Jersey General Assembly and also as the chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, made a pit stop at the College as part of her campaign to become the first African American woman to represent New Jersey’s 12th district. She is running to replace long-time Democrat Rush Holt.
“We need to be clear who we are and who we stand for,” said Watson Coleman in her speech, which focused on the importance of a government that works together, listens to students and comes up with solutions for a better society.
“It’s our responsibility to go across the aisle and work with Republicans … It’s our responsibility to build relationships and work together,” Watson Coleman said. “Blaming others is not government. It’s not democracy.”
After her speech, the College Democrats named Watson Coleman the “Honorary Chair of the TCNJ College Democrats.”
“She’s long represented N.J. at a local level, and it’s a great opportunity to have her come in,” said junior history and urban studies double major Sam Fogelgaren, president of the College Democrats. “We wanted to have her speak to students because she represents students and their needs.”
Watson Coleman stated that she, if elected, will fight to support Pell Grants and the N.J. Stars Program, a scholarship program that covers the cost of tuition at New Jersey’s 19 community colleges.
When asked about the introducing the idea of free education like in Germany, Watson Coleman said it would be difficult and not likely, but that she will work for “making higher education more affordable.”
While she did not state whether she was for or against the legalization of marijuana, she did state that she believes in the “decriminalization” of marijuana and that we need to “separate out the threats to society.”
Unlike many “loud-mouth, dysfunctional ultra-conservatives,” as Watson Coleman said, she believes the Affordable Care Act is the “most significant achievement since the start of Medicare,” and although she says it is not perfect, it allows for “opportunities to improve upon from patient and provider perspectives.”
Watson Coleman’s opponent in the upcoming midterm election is Republican Alieta Eck, MD. Eck, a graduate of Rutgers College of Pharmacy in N.J. and the St. Louis School of Medicine in St. Louis, M.O., is the co-founder of Zarephath Health Center is Somerset, N.J and has been in private practice with her husband since 1988.