J. Marshall Coleman (born June 8, 1942 Staunton, Virginia) is a Republican politician in Virginia who ran for several statewide offices between the late 1970s and early 1990s.
He graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A., in 1964, and J.D., in 1970. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1966-69, in Vietnam, for 13 months.
He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, in the 15th District, which included the Counties of Augusta, Highland, and Bath; Cities of Staunton and Waynesboro, from November 29, 1972-1975.
Coleman was elected Attorney General of Virginia in 1977, the first Republican to hold the office since Reconstruction, and was the GOP nominee for Governor of Virginia in 1981, he lost to Democrat Charles S. "Chuck" Robb. Coleman again ran for office in 1985 seeking the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor. He ran second in a five way field losing to state Senator John Chichester, who later was defeated in the general election by Democrat L. Douglas Wilder. Coleman was the surprise Republican nominee for governor in 1989, having upset the heavily favored former U.S. Senator Paul S. Trible, Jr., in the GOP primary. However, he came up short again in the general election, this time losing a very close election to Democrat L. Douglas Wilder, the first African-American ever elected governor of a U.S. state. Coleman was leading in certain polls until two days before the election, when a strong statement against abortion caused his popularity with female voters to drop. He also was portrayed as a flip-flopper, having radically changed his position on abortion and other topics several times. The media had also repeatedly portrayed Coleman as a "perennial candidate".
In 1994, Coleman ran for U.S. Senate as an independent, seeking to seize the middle ground between Robb, who had been elected to the Senate in 1988, and the GOP nominee, Oliver North. Coleman received the endorsement and support of Virginia's other U.S. Senator, Republican John Warner. Robb narrowly edged out North to win re-election. Coleman finished a distant third with 12% of the vote, despite Warner's support and widespread dislike among voters for North, who had been convicted on three felony counts, later overturned, for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair and Robb, who faced allegations of womanizing. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan openly opposed North in the election.
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