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Rep. Garnet Coleman of Texas

When progressives have control of a legislative chamber, the measure of their leadership is how they improve the lives of the residents of their states. But when they are in opposition, the measure of leadership is how they stand up for principle and highlight the abuses of rightwing power.

Garnet Coleman, a Texas House member elected from Houston, is a shining example of that kind of oppositional leadership. Just this last week, as chairman of the Texas Democratic Platform Committee, Rep. Coleman sheparded through principles that rebuked the hardline anti-immigrant position of the state's rightwing GOP leadership, instead advocating a more balanced approach of strengthened border security with a "path to citizenship" to bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows of the underground economy. The platform mocked the state's rightwing for their professed concern for supposed lost wages due to immigration:

We believe it is the height of hypocrisy for Republicans who consistently oppose increases in the minimum wage and worker protections to now claim they are 'protecting American jobs' with extreme immigration proposals

Leading Texas progressives in opposition to bad rightwing proposals in Texas is nothing new for Coleman. Last month, Rep. Coleman highlighted the irresponsibility of Texas leaders choosing tax cuts over the education of the state's students:

"Today, a Texas House majority sent Texas voters a message that giving a big tax break to Exxon is a higher priority than keeping a promise made to provide $1.8 billion for our children's schools," Coleman said.

Leading the "Killer D's": Most famously, Rep. Coleman was a leader of the Texas legislators who back in 2003 denounced the unprincipled mid-decade redistricting engineered by Congressional Majority Whip Tom Delay and who then became symbols of defiance by leaving the state to prevent quorum during the special session where the redistricting was first proposed. While Delay's redistricting plan was eventually shoved through, this high-profile rebellion that Coleman helped shine attention on Delay's corrupt machinations, a focus which eventually led to Delay's indictment on political money laundering and his resignation from Congress.

Policy Leadership for Texas: And this oppositional leadership was matched, in the period before the "Delayification" and polarization of Texas politics, by a long history of policy achievements by Coleman on behalf of Texas citizens. Reflecting that record since his first election back in 1991, Coleman was repeatedly named by Texas Monthly as one of the "Best Legislators of the Year."And back in 2001, Governing magazine chose him, among state leaders across the country as one of nine "Public Officials of the Year" because of "nearly a decade of legislating and endless work hours to the cause of children’s health, and the result has been a massive expansion of program eligibility for low-income families." Because of his work on behalf of voting rights, the Congressional Black Caucus named him Outstanding Black Caucus Chair for 2004. Recognized for that leadership by his colleagues, Coleman has served since 2003 as chair of the Legislative Study Group, a non-partisan house caucus dedicated to the development of public policy on behalf of all Texas families.