Health problems force Texas Rep. Garnet Coleman to step down from state politics

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – A longtime lawmaker in the Texas legislature is leaving his position after more than 30 years.

Houston State Assemblyman Garnet Coleman first said he would not run for re-election in the fall, then recently told the governor he would be taking early retirement.

Coleman said it was because of his longstanding health issues. One example Coleman gave was, “Chronic low blood pressure that caused me to faint or pass out all the time.”

He has been battling diabetes for a decade. But last May, during a special session, he felt unusually ill.

“I couldn’t stop throwing up and I was at my place in Austin for about a week,” he said of his symptoms.

When he didn’t seem to be doing better, one of Coleman’s coworkers called 911. What happened next was shocking.

“It was like 8 a.m. Monday,” he recalled. “After being out for six days, they cut my leg off that afternoon. My health… In fact, if I hadn’t gone to the hospital, I probably would have been dead within a day or two.”

In the hospital, he decided to retire. He said it was also the partisan bickering in the legislature that helped him realize it was time to go.

“If you lose your leg and I’m not better,” he said. “I said, ‘You know, that’s what keeps me from getting better.'”

Now there were also the restrictions.

“I can’t drive now either, and getting around in a wheelchair isn’t as easy as it seems,” said Coleman.

It was even more difficult to serve in the state legislature.

“It keeps me from working on the floor, you know?” said Coleman. “You have to move around, I have to move around in a wheelchair on the floor of the house. And that wasn’t very easy.”

It’s not the first time Coleman has spoken openly about his health. Diagnosed as bipolar, he has spoken openly about it and then viewed healthcare as an important issue in Texas. He even got an appointment from the Obama administration to work in healthcare.

“The idea of ​​being asked by the President of the United States to work on providing health insurance to the people of the nation, and those are the things that I’ve been trying to solve from day one — going into the legislature make sure people have health insurance,” he said.

Coleman was just 29 when he won his first election 31 years ago, representing the Third Ward in which he grew up. He was just a year out of school. His father – a well-known doctor, funder and civil rights activist – was initially not happy about his son’s choice. But Coleman’s work on health care and education has been praised even by his Republican critics. He leaves the House of Representatives as the fifth-ranking Democrat.

Coleman said he’s always worked to make a difference, just like his father. He muses, “Seeing my dad making sure black people had a seat at the table — both politically and financially, I mean, that really impacted me because it was an affair of the heart.”

And when his dad told Coleman he was proud of him, it still brings tears to his eyes just talking about it.

“He told me that on his deathbed,” Coleman recalled. “And it meant so much.”

He continues, “You know, we all have our issues with our parents, and to let him say those words, honestly, it just meant the world to me.”

Coleman said he will miss the camaraderie in the House of Representatives, but said it is fading as partisanship heats up. Though he will no longer be in the legislature, he has set up a think tank in the heart of the Third Ward borough he has represented for so long. He said he plans to continue working on some of the issues he fought for during his 30-year tenure.

To learn more about this story, follow Melanie Lawson Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All rights reserved. Health problems force Texas Rep. Garnet Coleman to step down from state politics

Dais Johnston

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