Kansas lawmaker-to-be under order not to contact foe’s aide

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A soon-to-be seated Kansas lawmaker has had a temporary anti-stalking order issued against him in court at the request of a former opponent’s campaign manager, who said he sent her harassing messages, came to her home twice and tried to get her evicted.

State Rep.-elect Aaron Coleman, a 20-year-old Democrat from Kansas City, Kansas, will face a video hearing Dec. 16 in state district court in his home of Wyandotte County to determine whether the temporary order stays in place. The temporary order, issued by a judge Friday, orders Coleman not to communicate “in any manner” with Brandie Armstrong, also of Kansas City, Kansas, or follow her or come “on or around” her home or job site.

It’s the latest controversy involving Coleman. Others include allegations of circulating revenge porn and threatening to shoot a student when younger and post-election criticism of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly for not being liberal enough.

Armstrong was campaign manager for Rep. Stan Frownfelter, the veteran Kansas City lawmaker that the 20-year-old Coleman narrowly defeated in the August primary. Frownfelter and a Republican candidate also ran write-in campaigns in the November general election, but Coleman captured 66% of the vote.

Armstrong said in her request for an order against Coleman that he repeatedly sent harassing texts and personal messages to her during the campaign, came to her home in June and October and attempted to file “false and bogus” complaints against her landlord to try to get her evicted. She declined Tuesday to comment further, other than saying in a text message to The Associated Press that she did not want to bring more attention to her case “given what Mr. Coleman and his supporters are insinuating about me,” without elaborating.

Coleman also declined to discuss Armstrong’s allegations. He was at the Statehouse on Monday and Tuesday for meetings ahead of the Legislature convening its 2021 annual session Jan. 11.

“I don’t want to upset any judges,” he said. “Judges don’t like it when you step on their toes.”

Coleman defeated Frownfelter in the primary after running on a liberal platform that included providing universal health coverage, eliminating college tuition and legalizing marijuana.

He tweeted Tuesday that he was fighting Armstrong’s order not because he wanted to contact her again but “because this order would block me from attending political meetings.” A supporter started a gofundme.com campaign Monday to raise money for Coleman’s legal defense.

Kansas law allows people to obtain a temporary court order to keep others from having contact with them if they can outline a case in writing that they are victims of abuse, including stalking. Wyandotte County District Judge Kathleen Lynch on Friday determined that Armstrong had established a case for the temporary order.

Kelly and the House’s top Democrat, Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, already had described Coleman as being unfit to serve. Coleman posted tweets immediately after the November election criticizing Kelly, including a later-deleted one that said, “People will realize one day when I call a hit out on you it’s real.” He said later that he meant to use the phrase “political hit.”

Coleman was charged in May 2015 with a felony count of making a criminal threat against a high school student but later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of harassment. A police arrest report and investigative summary from the incident said Coleman threatened to go to a girl’s high school, shoot her and turn the gun on himself.

In June, he acknowledged in a post on Facebook that allegations of revenge porn and harassing middle school girls online were true but called them the actions of a “sick and troubled 14-year-old boy.”

The state Democratic Party disowned Coleman in August when an ex-girlfriend accused him of being physically abusive to her in late December 2019.

Sawyer had said Democrats likely would seek to oust Coleman once he was sworn in by forcing a House vote on expelling him. But Sawyer said Tuesday that House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. discouraged such a move because it would involve conduct before Coleman took office.

Democrats now are likely to monitor the new lawmaker’s actions closely, Sawyer said.

“I have a feeling he’s not going to make it the two years, but we’ll see,” said Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat. “If he can behave for two years, yeah, then, we’ll just get a primary.”

Ryckman said he told Sawyer only that overturning an election was a problematic “slippery slope.”

“I cautioned about undoing the will of the voters, who just knew who they voting for,” said Ryckman, an Olathe Republican.

Coleman has argued that the House can’t expel him for conduct that occurred before he took office.

“I’m focusing on governing,” he said.

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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