Jeff Coleman: A politics inspired by the peaceful PHL People Power

Jeff and Rebecca and their children Anna, Teddy, Charlotte, and Henry.
Rebecca Collins Coleman is a member of the Lemoyne, PA Borough Council.

Jeff Coleman, the former Pennsylvania State representative, has announced his return to public service as a Republican candidate seeking the office of Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania.

Coleman, whose mother is Filipino from Mindoro Occidental and whose political consciousness was shaped by the 1986 peaceful Edsa People Power revolution, said he is running a “positive campaign” on a platform of restoring respect and civility to politics. His team touts his immigrant background, his small-town values, and being elected to the House of Representatives “without negative campaigning.” He was a congressman from 2001 to 2004, winning in the predominantly Democratic 60th  district. He took a break from politics when he and wife Rebecca founded Churchill Strategies, a corporate consulting company, in 2005. He published the book “With All Due Respect: Recovering the Manners and Civility of Political Combat” in 2017.

“The legacy and importance of family, faith, work, and hospitality, the same values that make the Filipino culture special, will define Jeff’s current campaign,” says a statement from his campaign office.

Missionary parents

Coleman’s parents met and married in Olongapo while his father was stationed at Subic. Theirs is a “wonderful love story” enduring to this day at 47 years, he said.

Coleman was a Pennsylvania congressman from 2001 to 2004 winning in a predominantly Democratic district. Facebook photo

“I think what’s astonishing to me is that the Filipino signature traits—hospitality, humor, friendship, sacrificial love—are so obviously a part of their marriage because of (mom). I’d like to think I have some, or at least parts, of each of those. They are remarkably giving and sacrificial people,” he told The FilAm.

He said, “My mother Milan is from Mindoro Occidental, and the barangay of Mamburao. She was the oldest of 10 surviving children—eight girls and two boys. I’d say they lived a very middle-class life. Certainly not in poverty, but not an aristocratic family.” His father Keith hails from western New York.

His said his children love their grandpa and Lola and are completely curious about their culture. “They’re divided on whether or not ‘halo-halo’ is a good thing. Two of our kids love it. The other two are undecided. I think they can’t quite figure out how beans are a dessert! For the record, it’s my favorite. My son Teddy has been trying out his Tagalog with Lola. Word by word, he’s getting pretty good. I expect I’ll have some Tagalog speakers by college.”

His Filipino grandfather, Bernardo, was an “enthusiastic young helper” during the war. At the time, he was not old enough to be a Philippine Scout to engage in the resistance against the Japanese imperial forces.

Coleman was born on the Fourth of July in 1975, at Whidbey Island Naval Base in Washington State. Before he was 13, the Colemans would enter Presbyterian missionary service in South America, Africa, and lived for four years in Manila.

First FilAm

He was the youngest person elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and the first FilAm to serve in the State Capitol. He credits his experiences living in the Philippines in the late 1980s with his passion for public service. His father taught at a Bible College in Project 6, Quezon City.

Coleman said he has “some” of the Filipino signature traits of hospitality, humor and friendship he got from his mother Milan. His father Keith taught at a Bible College in Quezon City.
Lola Milan and her grandchildren. Is ‘halo halo’ a good thing?

“Those were some of the richest years of my life,” he told The FilAm. “It’s where I learned to speak Tagalog, fell in love with early morning tricycle and jeepney rides to the market with my mom, and in every way lived like a Filipino.” For four years, he had a very Filipino childhood and was called  “Jepoy” by family and friends.

He was back in the Philippines on his honeymoon at El Nido in Palawan Island. Then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo hosted a dinner for the couple at Malacanang during that same trip. He returned again for President George W. Bush’s state dinner in Manila. “We’re hoping to plan a return trip after the election next year,” he said.

During his time in the House, Coleman built friendships with members of both political parties and earned himself a reputation as a “happy warrior.” He said he was unafraid of challenging the Old Guard, but did so with respect and a “commitment to decorum.”

In 1986, he and his parents witnessed the overthrow of 20-year dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, in a bloodless revolt. “Seeing over two million people stand side by side purely in the name of democracy is a type of unity that is desperately needed in our country today,” he said. “I learned from the hard work and joyful tenacity of Filipinos that it only takes one courageous person, standing with another brave soul to change the world, and I still believe that.”

Coleman is the founder and principal of the consulting firm Churchill Strategies in downtown Harrisburg, near where his family attends their multi-ethnic church. His wife Rebecca is also an elected Borough Council Member in Lemoyne, where they reside with their four children: Anna, 16; Teddy, 11; Charlotte, 8; and Henry, 7.

He avoided commenting directly when asked about Donald Trump, who remains a potent force in Republican politics, saying simply,  “This race is about 2022 and the future of Pennsylvania, which is the challenge we face right now.” – Cristina DC Pastor

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