Kansas Lawmakers Vow to Try and Block Newly Elected 20-Year-Old Who Admitted Sending 'Revenge Porn' as a Teen
"I denounce these actions and they are the actions of a sick and troubled 14-yo boy," Aaron Coleman's campaign has said
Aaron Coleman — a 20-year-old who admitted to sharing sexually exploitative images of teenage girls when he was younger, who was charged with threatening to shoot a fellow student at the age of 14 and who most recently tweeted about one day putting out "a hit" on a sitting governor — won a seat in the Kansas House of Representatives last week, despite the considerable controversy and admissions of wrongdoing that plagued his campaign.
Less than week after his victory, state Democratic leaders said they were focused on ensuring Coleman, a Democrat, doesn't actually serve in the legislature — at least not for long.
In August, then-19-year-old Coleman won a primary race for a seat in the Kansas House when he defeated incumbent Rep. Stan Frownfelter by 14 votes. A former dishwasher and a student at a community college, Coleman had what appeared to be a story of grassroots success until accounts of his past behavior revealed more troubling truths.
After several stories of abuse surfaced, Coleman admitted that he had harassed girls — including sharing a nude photo of one girl in retaliation for her not sending more illicit photos — when he was in middle school.
Several young women spoke with The Kansas City Star to describe how Coleman had previously tormented, threatened and blackmailed them.
One of the women said that, five years ago, Coleman sent a nude photo of her he obtained without her permission to her friends and family — a tactic better known as "revenge porn."
“He 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,” the woman wrote, according to the Star. “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.”
According to the Star, one account of "revenge porn" blackmail occurred when Coleman was 12 and he had a naked photo of a teenage girl.
The Star reported that another woman said that Coleman's behavior "got so bad that he found out my family’s home phone and wouldn’t stop calling it until we picked up."
According to the Star, a post on Coleman's campaign Facebook stated in June that "the charges include: bullying, revenge porn, and blackmail — I just want to make clear all these allegations are both true and occurred only digitally. I denounce these actions and they are the actions of a sick and troubled 14-yo boy."
In the case of the shooting threat from 2015, the Star reported in October that Coleman pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment after initially being charged with making a criminal threat in connection with a text message about shooting a female student and then shooting himself. Coleman was 14 at the time.
Other allegations, including some from as recently as this past year, persisted.
Shortly after admitting to some of the claims of abuse, Coleman said he would withdraw from the race, suggesting he was sorry for his transgressions and telling reporters he had reached out to his victims to make amends.
Days later though, he reversed course, re-entering the race and casting himself as the target of “sustained attacks” from “party bosses in Topeka, [Kansas,]" in a statement posted to (and since deleted from) Twitter, according to New York magazine's The Cut.
He previously told the Star: "I find it insane to use someone’s juvenile record to distract from the fact Republicans and Democrats are engaging in full on class warfare right here in Wyandotte County and keeping people trapped in poverty in order to maximize profits."
Coleman, who launched his campaign at the age of 19, was the only candidate on the ballot in his district.
A day after his election, he used Twitter to criticize and appear to threaten Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, whom he wrote faced an "extremely bloody” Democratic primary race in two years.
“I’m not playing around,” read the tweet, which has since been deleted. “People will realize one day when I call a hit out on you it’s real.”
“Kansas House Democrats will take every necessary step to ensure Coleman is not seated in the Legislature,” Kansas House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer told The New York Times. “With Republican cooperation, I believe we can resolve this issue and find a replacement who is competent, stable and principled to serve the 37th District.”
In a statement sent to PEOPLE on Monday, Coleman said he was not speaking to reporters.
He did not respond to specific questions about his past behavior and scandals.
“i’m not doing any press right now. I’m focused on getting to work for the voters of district 37. [sic]," his statement read.