The next Senator Coleman from Minnesota
Julia Coleman hasn’t been involved in campus advocacy for a number of years now. But Coleman still carries many of the lessons she learned during her time working as a field representative for the Leadership Institute, a conservative youth organizing group, touring colleges in the mid-Atlantic region.
“One of our demonstrations was we would take a SodaStream and we would set up a little booth,” Coleman recalled in a recent interview with Jewish Insider, referring to the popular soda machine, which is headquartered in Israel and is a frequent target of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns. “While we’re showing them this amazing apparatus, we would talk about the innovations coming out of Israel and the importance of having a free, democratic state in the Middle East and protecting Israel. And it opened up a lot of students’ eyes.”
Such discussions were, incidentally, also good practice for Coleman in her personal and political future as a young Republican. She is now the daughter-in-law of Norm Coleman, the former Minnesota senator and current chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition. “You can’t be in my home and not have those conversations,” the former senator said matter-of-factly in a phone conversation with JI.
Now that she is vying to represent Minnesota’s 47th district in the state Senate, Coleman — who currently serves as a city council member in Chanhassen, a suburb of Minneapolis — is acutely aware that some of the same issues she faced on campuses will also be present in higher office. Coleman defeated Victoria Mayor Tom Funk in the 47th district Republican primary in August.
She says she is ready for the challenge. “I would like to let the Jewish community in Minnesota know that they do have an ally in me,” she said.
Coleman, 28, says she entered the race to replace Scott Jensen, a Republican retiring at the end of his term, because she believes the state has been co-opted by progressives like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), the freshman congresswoman who is highly critical of Israel and has been accused of antisemitism. “She definitely has yanked that entire party further left and has really created quite a radical base here in Minnesota,” Coleman declared weeks after Omar’s resounding primary victory over a more moderate challenger.
“I will fight antisemitism, whether it’s coming from Ilhan or members of the state legislature or the public, whether it’s coming from movements like BDS,” promised Coleman, who characterizes herself as “a strong, Zionist, pro-Israel supporter.”
It may seem, at first glance, that a down-ballot candidate such as Coleman wouldn’t have much of an opportunity to effect change at the state level. But her father-in-law avers that it is just as important to have pro-Israel candidates locally as it is to have them in Congress.
“To have somebody who, in their core, understands the importance of these issues, I think, really makes a difference because the battles are being fought on the local level,” he said.
Dan Rosen, a lawyer in Minneapolis who is involved in pro-Israel causes at the state and national levels, agreed. “Even here in Minnesota, the Jewish community has to be on its guard,” he told JI. “Anti-Israel advocates are active at our capitol, where pro-Israel legislators have passed anti-BDS legislation and thwarted efforts to force divestment from Israel. Accordingly, we are grateful when legislative candidates, like Julia, are committed to fighting those that would single out Jewish and pro-Israel interests for attack.”
Coleman, who was raised Catholic, has developed a strong affinity for Judaism since she married Jacob Coleman — an account executive at a Minneapolis insurance company and a volunteer fireman in Chanhassen — in 2018. They have decided to raise their 10-month-old son, Adam, in both religious traditions, just as Jacob, whose mother is Catholic, grew up.
“We’ll do Christmas and Hanukkah, we’ll do Easter and Passover,” she said, “and it has helped me to not only appreciate the Jewish people and their faith, but also it has taught me so much about my own because we share that Old Testament. I think that it is so important for Christians to really get to know their Jewish brothers and sisters and their faith, because it helps us to understand our own even better.”
Coleman said she has learned much about Judaism as well as the U.S.-Israel bond through her relationship with her father-in-law. “He did my first Seder,” she told JI, “and it was just such a beautifully eye-opening experience into the Jewish faith, as well as my own, because that’s part of our background.”
“You learn simply by being around him,” Coleman added, noting that she attended the RJC convention at his behest in 2019. “That was such a great experience. I’ve always been pro-Israel, but to hear the president speak and to get to meet hundreds of people who are Jewish and Israel supporters, and to share why this issue matters to them on a personal level, and to hear Norm speak to them and hear their stories — you learn so much.”
Coleman — who has never been to Israel but wants to visit — was raised in Minnesota. Her father is a Ramsey County deputy sheriff, and her mother is an executive consultant. She graduated from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and was Miss Minneapolis in 2014. (Her platform, she said, was suicide prevention.) She “gave up” her “crown,” as she jokingly put it, to spend a year with the Leadership Institute, but returned to her home state to work for Charlie Kirk’s conservative nonprofit student organization, Turning Point USA.
“I got kicked off of college campuses more than I care to admit,” she said.
Soon after, she was hired as a reporter and anchor for Alpha News, a partisan media startup in the Gopher State. But Coleman found that being in front of a camera was unfulfilling, so she moved on to a new position as a public relations manager at Medical Alley Association, a trade group advocating on behalf of Minnesota’s health technology community.
She currently holds that job while serving on the Chanhassen City Council, a position she has occupied since 2018, the same year she married her husband — who five years ago ran for the Senate seat she is gunning for, but lost the Republican endorsement to Jensen.
“My dad was thrilled when I married Norm’s son, because Norm brought the Wild to Minnesota, and my dad is a die-hard Wild fan,” said Coleman, alluding to Minnesota’s professional hockey team. “I don’t think my husband had to put up too hard of a fight to ask for permission, although my dad was on duty and armed when Jake asked for permission, so, brave guy.”
Though Coleman is only two years into her term as a city council member, she believes that she is ready for a promotion to the State Senate.
“I felt compelled to run in order to preserve the freedoms that I got to grow up with and the opportunities I had,” she said, emphasizing that she takes Omar’s statements personally in large part because of her son.
“My son has Jewish heritage,” she told JI. “I’m just blown away by Ilhan Omar’s rhetoric, and when people think of a female politician from Minnesota, I want them to think about someone who’s pro-Israel and supportive of the Jewish community.”
Support for BDS, Coleman added, has become commonplace among left-leaning politicians in Minnesota, a development she regards as troubling. “It is just antisemitism at its finest,” she told JI.
Coleman, who is all but assured a seat in the solidly conservative district as she goes up against Democrat Addie Miller in November, swats away questions about her ambitions beyond state office.
“I always say the same thing when I was on council,” she said. “I have to prove I can do a good job here before I’ll even think that far ahead.”
In the meantime, she is looking forward to taking on more substantive issues assuming she is elected to the State Senate — a return of sorts to her days advocating for conservative causes on campuses in her early 20s.
“You really don’t talk about hot button issues on council,” Coleman told JI. “You talk about zoning, you talk about the local levy, the fire department. In the State Senate, issues like BDS will come before me. Issues like abortion and the Second Amendment will come before me. Issues that are going to affect every single Minnesotan will be discussed and debated. And so I do believe that, if elected in November, I will be incredibly blessed to fight for the people of Minnesota and, hopefully, leave behind a state that is better than the one I grew up in for the next generation of Minnesotans.”