Kansas candidate who admitted to revenge porn back in race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old Democratic candidate for the Kansas House who admitted to engaging in revenge porn and harassing girls online has reversed his decision to abandon his campaign, and a party leader suggested Tuesday that the House wouldn’t seat the young candidate if he won.

Aaron Coleman, of Kansas City, Kansas, said in a tweeted statement Tuesday that many of the people who voted for him in the primary over veteran state Rep. Stan Frownfelter urged him not to drop out. Coleman prevailed by 14 votes, with the final, unofficial tally standing at 823 to 809.

Frownfelter already has launched a write-in campaign for the November general election that has the backing of the Kansas House’s top Democrat, Minority Leader Tom Sawyer of Wichita.

“If for some reason he does win, I think it’s highly unlikely the Kansas House will allow Mr. Coleman to be seated,” Sawyer said in a statement texted to The Associated Press.

The state constitution says that each chamber is the judge of the elections and qualifications of members.” Sawyer said during a followup interview that if a House member challenges Coleman’s fitness, House leaders could appoint a committee to recommend whether Coleman should be seated, with a two-thirds majority needed to deny Coleman his seat.

That’s the process used to determine whether House members are censured or expelled when other members complain about their conduct.

“It doesn’t appear Democrats would support Aaron Coleman, and so I would be surprised that Republicans would go ahead and vote to seat him,” Sawyer said. “To me, he clearly seems unfit for office.”

Top Republicans in the GOP-controlled House did not immediately return telephone and text messages seeking comment about whether the chamber might refuse to seat Coleman. The GOP doesn’t have a candidate for the seat on the November ballot.

In a Facebook in June, Coleman said allegations that he engaged in online bullying, blackmail and revenge porn were true. He said his past behavior targeting several middle-school girls was that of “a sick and troubled” 14-year-old.

Some Democrats also disavowed Coleman because of incendiary social media posts. They included one post saying he would “laugh and giggle” if a former GOP state lawmaker died of COVID-19 and another endorsing abortion up to the moment of birth. He apologized in an Aug. 1 Facebook post but later told the AP in an email, “These issues are life and death.”

Coleman did not immediately return telephone or email messages seeking comment but said in his tweeted statement that voters urged him to stay in because he’s advocated policies that “improve the lives of ordinary people.” He is running on a liberal platform that includes universal health coverage, eliminating college tuition, defunding the police and legalizing marijuana.

“They said that they did not vote for me expecting that I was a perfect person,” he said. “They told me that all of us have sinned, and we all make mistakes.”

Coleman said Sunday he would drop out to focus on caring for his family. He said Tuesday that his father is “quite ill,” that his older brother died by suicide last year and that his family is suffering economically because of the coronavirus pandemic. Coleman is a community college student and dishwasher.

State law would have required Coleman to file a written statement with the Kansas secretary of state’s office, signed by a doctor, certifying that he or his family faced a “severe medical hardship.”

A handful of Democratic Party activists in the district would have then picked a new nominee — with the possibility that it could be Frownfelter, a 69-year-old small businessman first elected to the House in 2006. Republicans also would have been allowed to pick a nominee.

“I go down fighting,” Frownfelter said. “I’m not much for losing.”

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

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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