In a tight race for a Kansas House of Representatives seat, Democratic voters have handed a primary win to a 19-year-old candidate who admits he harassed girls in middle school and circulated a nude photo of one 13-year-old girl.
Aaron Coleman, who faces no Republican opposition on the November ballot, has also said he would “giggle” if a former Republican state legislator who is now a radio show host were to die from COVID-19.
Coleman was declared the victor Monday of the 37th district race against incumbent Democratic state Rep. Stan Frownfelter, winning the race by a vote of 823 to 809.
The result sent shock waves to those who had known Coleman, The Kansas City Star reported in an editorial.
“I was just in disbelief that another man that doesn’t respect women is in power,” a woman, now 18, who said she tried to commit suicide due to Coleman’s harassment told The Star.
She recalled Coleman, in sixth grade, “calling me fat, telling me to kill myself, like I’m never going to find anyone, like I’m worthless, just downgrading me every day.”
Another woman, whose name was also withheld, said the Democratic winner “got one of my nudes and blackmailed me with it and told me if I didn’t send him more he would [send] it to all of my friends and family.”
“And when I didn’t send him more, he sent it to everyone I knew. I don’t know how he got the picture. All I know is he’s an awful person and he should not be allowed to run for anything,” she said.
When The New York Times asked Coleman about the claims, his response was: “They’re accurate.”
“The charges include: bullying, revenge porn, and blackmail — I just want to make clear all these allegations are both true and occurred only digitally,” he wrote on his official campaign Facebook page in June.
“I denounce these actions and they are the actions of a sick and troubled 14-yo boy.”
In an interview with the Kansas Reflector, Coleman admitted to posting a Facebook message exulting over the possibility that former state Rep. John Whitmer, a Wichita radio talk show host and a Republican, could die of COVID-19.
“John, I’m going to laugh and giggle when you get COVID and die,” the post read. “At least we can say you died doing what you love. Ask your buddy Herman Cain how it worked out for him.”
The comments have led Democrats in Kansas to distance themselves from Coleman.
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly will support Frownfelter, who is running as a write-in candidate.
“Aaron Coleman is not fit to serve in the Legislature,” Kelly spokeswoman Lauren Fitzgerald told The Times.
Coleman said that he has apologized for past misdeeds, and that his candidacy is a sign change is needed.
“We need and we deserve someone who will stand up for those policies and I’m the only one in the race who will do it, and that’s why I’m the only one on the ballot,” he told The Times. “When you pay so little attention to your district that you lose to a 19-year-old with no political connections, it probably means you should retire.”
Frownfelter said Coleman’s win is a result of superficial examination of candidates by the voters.
“It was easy for him to have quick conversations with voters, trying to get their vote, without revealing this dark side of him that we see now so clearly,” Frownfelter said. “This is why I encourage every voter to truly educate themselves on the candidates before casting their ballot and to get out there and vote. Every single vote matters.”