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Rep. Garnet Coleman to retire

Very sad to see him go, he was one of the best.

Rep. Garnet Coleman

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat who has served 30 years in the Texas House, said Thursday he will not seek another term to the lower chamber.

Coleman, who has represented parts of central and southeast Houston in state House District 147 since 1991, told The Texas Tribune his retirement was based primarily on health reasons. Coleman said he still plans to stay “involved in public policy as much as” he can.

“I’m proud of the work I’ve done and my office has done,” Coleman said. “It’s just time to do something else — I’m 60 years old [and want to] use the rest of my time doing positive things.”

Coleman, who ranks fifth in seniority among the 150-member House, has served as chair of the House County Affairs Committee since the 2009 legislative session. He also chairs the Texas Legislative Study Group, a Democratic-leaning research caucus in the lower chamber.

After nearly collapsing on the House floor in early May, Coleman battled a severe illness that eventually led to the amputation of his lower right leg.

Coleman’s recovery from that surgery kept him in Houston as tensions simmered over GOP elections legislation, which prompted multiple special sessions at the Legislature this summer after House Democrats fled to Washington, D.C., to break quorum and block that bill.

As House Republicans voted to authorize law enforcement to track down any absent Democrats, Coleman remained in the state, making him vulnerable to arrest.

“Let them come,” Coleman told The Texas Tribune in July. “They’re going to have to carry me in this wheelchair, and they’re going to have to carry me into the chamber and lock me in there.”

Though that never happened, Coleman was one of three Democrats who returned to the House roughly a month later, helping the chamber restore quorum after a nearly six-week impasse.

In a statement at the time, Coleman and the two others — fellow Houston Democrats Armando Walle and Ana Hernandez — pointed to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the state as their reason for returning.

Later Thursday, state Rep. Chris Turner, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, called Coleman’s retirement “a loss for the Democratic Caucus, the Texas House and the entire state of Texas” and referenced the work the lawmaker has done in health care and mental health policy arenas.

I’ve been an admirer of Rep. Coleman for a long time. He’s as strong on policy matters as anyone you’ll find, and he has a long record of authoring and supporting good legislation. The Legislative Study Group, which he chaired, was and is an invaluable resource for understanding bills that are moving through the House. Rep. Coleman’s health has been poor for awhile, and perhaps because of that he’s had a string of low-level challengers in recent primaries, all of whom he easily dispatched. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Rep. Coleman over the years, and he’s just a good person. I received an “Outstanding Media” award a few years ago from the National Association of Social Workers, and one of the pieces of evidence in support of my nomination for this award was a letter from Rep. Coleman saying all kinds of nice things about me and my blog. I was really touched by that. My friend Phillip Martin, who worked in Rep. Coleman’s legislative office for a few years, shares his memories of that time and of the positive effect Rep. Coleman had on his life.

I’m sure there will be a number of people competing for his to-be-vacant seat, and all I can say is that they will have a tough act to follow. I wish Rep. Coleman, and also Rep. Joe Deshotel of Beaumont, whom the story says is also retiring, all the best. The Chron and Reform Austin, which writes about Rep. Deshotel, have more.

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One Comment

  1. Mainstream says:

    When I lived at the edge of Third Ward, I once campaigned and voted for Garnet over Jew Don Boney in the special election to fill a vacancy left when Larry Evans died in office in sad circumstances. He was young and untested, but has proven to be a serious thinker about policy, and I think the legislature will be less civil and thoughtful as a result of his departure. I wish him well with his health and in the years to come. I have sometimes disagreed with him on policy, sometimes not, but he has always been a class act.