Representative Jeff Coleman is running unopposed on the Republican primary ballot for Missouri’s District 32. Recent redistricting resulted in District 32 incorporating more of Grain Valley than the prior map. Coleman previously served on the Grain Valley Board of Aldermen and currently serves on the Grain Valley School Board.
Valley News sat down recently for a conversation with Coleman, discussing recent national hot button issues as well as his priorities if elected for another term.
The topic of social media and its ability to both connect with constituents as well as provide a forum where productive discussions can be difficult arose when Coleman raised the June 2022 decision by the Supreme Court to reverse Roe v. Wade.
“I love to talk to people and hear their opinions on issues, but social media makes it difficult to have real conversations.”
“I have my own story and my own reasoning about why I vote the way I do. When I voted for the heartbeat bill originally, I put it out on Facebook. One particular person hammered me all day, every day. I finally came online, and said that I’ve tried to tell people without telling people why I voted the way I did. I have my own reasons and I am not going to discuss them on Facebook. If you want to talk to me, I will talk to you in person. I will talk to you on the phone. But I’m not doing it on Facebook.”
She said, ‘Nope. It’s got to be public. You’re a public figure and this is a public forum’. I get that part, but I’m not going to do it, and that was my last post on the thread.”
“After about a month, I get a private message and ask if I would like to talk. I gave her my number and she called me. We got to talk about real things, and not just all the stuff on Facebook. And it was more personal, and that is what doesn’t happen on social media.”
“I didn’t change her mind. And that’s not what I was trying to do. But I wanted her to know this is why it’s so important to me.”
With Coleman raising one recent national hot button issue, the issue of gun control and Coleman’s views on the topic were discussed.
Coleman was one of 45 Missouri House members who signed a letter in June 2022 urging Senator Roy Blunt to oppose a Senate gun deal that would give states incentives to enact “red flag” laws, which allow courts or law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who may be a danger to themselves or others. The effort to offer such incentives came in response to the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, which resulted in the deaths of 19 children and 2 educators.
Additional information from Missouri Independent: https://missouriindependent.com/2022/06/16/group-of-missouri-republican-state-lawmakers-push-blunt-to-oppose-senate-gun-deal/
“In reference to gun control, the problem for me is that no matter what we do, there’s not going to be anything that’s going to keep these guys from getting the guns if they want to do something. It’s like everything else…there’s always going to be the underground stuff you can get to whatever you want to get to.”
“When you take away the opportunities for good people, it then opens the door for these other people. (With issues such as) red flag laws, when you start down a path, if there is an issue that you are against and you have something that sounds good and will make a difference, we call it the camel’s nose getting under the tent. It starts opening the door for other things.”
“My position on the 2nd amendment is it states that your rights are not to be infringed upon at all. Regardless. The fact that we have people doing these things today I think is heightened by the media, meaning that we talk about it more, therefore it puts ideas in people.”
“I believe that what we see on television, what we see on movies, what we see in our video games, is something that is taking our kids who are maybe going through a phase, and it desensitizes them.”
“I think that if it hits somebody right at the time when they are going through something, like the kid in Texas or the kid in New York, (it can affect them). Something is happening to our mental health (as a society).”
“Our society is changed from a family organized society, to ‘all is good’. Whatever you want to do is what you want to do. And I think that is part of our problem. We don’t have that family core to help our kids grow up in a world where they don’t have these issues.”
Given Coleman’s position as a member of a local school board and the impact the threat of gun violence has on schools, staff, and students, Valley News asked how this shapes his perspective of how to best equip schools and teachers to address the issues surrounding safety and identifying students who may be in crisis.
“I have taken a lot of heat because I don’t want the stickers (referring to “safe space” stickers) in classrooms, as you know. I voted against having a ‘listen and learn’. Not that I don’t care about what people think. First of all, I want people to know that the Board may have done things a little bit differently, had we been given the right information. We were under the understanding that those stickers were new – new within the week. We wanted that to be taken down right away.”
“Had we known that they had been there as long as a year, we probably would have phased it out. This is the issue people need to understand. This is a political issue. Down at the bottom of that sticker is a website and they are supposed to be there for kids. But if you look at them deeper, you can see who they are contributing to. I don’t want politics – my side or the other side – in the school. That is not our job. Our job is to teach our kids. I don’t care who they are, what they identify as, it doesn’t matter. We are going to give them tools so that when they get out of school, they can go on and be good productive citizens.”
“To your point earlier, how do we get kids the help that they need? If a teacher sees something going on in the child’s life. I don’t want the teacher taking on that responsibility. They can be there as a friend, but I want them to push that kid on to our counseling which have the credentials to help that kid through those issues. And then if they can’t help, then they can get them to the right people outside the school.”
Looking to his priorities if elected to another term, Coleman points to his ongoing efforts to place a cap on property tax rates. The ongoing battle over redistricting in the state took much of the air out of the past legislative session, and many measures, including Coleman’s proposal to cap property tax rates ran out of time to be considered.
“That was frustrating. One of my priorities, especially for Jackson County, was to cap how much the assessor can raise property values. A firm from Texas has been hired to look at every house in Jackson County to give them the ability to raise your property values by 15% or higher. Because they can’t raise it more than 14.9% unless they have seen your house in person. That gives me concern that there will be a big increase the next time around.”
“The reason that was a priority for me and my biggest concern is lower income and fixed income folks, because their incomes don’t increase as much as their property values do, so they are afraid they are going to get taxed out of their homes.”
Another priority for Coleman is human trafficking. The Kansas City area has proven a major hub for activity, with interstates 35 and 70 intersecting the region. Coleman is working with Restoration House, a local faith-based nonprofit in Harrisonville, that provides housing and programs for adult women and child survivors of human trafficking.
“They do amazing things for victims,” Coleman said.
“The way our laws are set up right now, the victims of traffickers are the ones who get thrown in jail. The johns only get a misdemeanor and a $1,000 fine if they get caught. We’re changing it to a felony, and I will get it through this year. The younger the victim, the bigger the felony. In addition, there will be a $5,000 fine if found guilty. Half of the money collected will go to law enforcement where the arrest takes place, and the other half goes to facilities like Restoration House who serve victims.”
Coleman said his focus remains on the people he serves.
“It’s not about me, it’s about helping people. Everything I’ve done to this point has been helpful to Missouri citizens, and it’s not about Jeff. If you’re going down there (Jefferson City) to try to make a big name for yourself, you’re going down for the wrong reasons.”
“It’s all about service. That is what my whole life has been about.”
Coleman is eyeing a State Senate run when he terms out in two years. Current Missouri Senator Mike Cierpiot will also term out in two years, and Coleman is likely to run for his seat.
For more information on the August 2nd primary ballot, visit https://jcebmo.org/election-information/on-the-ballot/.
See the profile of Democrat Janice Brill, who is on the primary ballot for the Missouri District 32 House seat: https://www.grainvalleynews.com/news/candidate-profile-janice-brill