Party disavows Kansas candidate who admitted to revenge porn

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Democratic Party on Wednesday declared that the 19-year-old nominee for a state House seat is “unfit” for office because of “alarming behavior” that includes admitting to circulating revenge porn, and he said his online fundraising account has been disabled.

Chairwoman Vicki Hiatt said the state party is working with the Kansas House’s top Democrat, Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, to find an alternative to nominee Aaron Coleman in a normally safe Democratic district in Kansas City, Kansas. Coleman defeated seven-term state Rep. Stan Frownfelter in the Aug. 4 primary by 14 votes out of about 1,600 cast.

Frownfelter has launched a write-in campaign, and Sawyer, from Wichita, said Democratic lawmakers are supporting it. Sawyer also said that if Coleman wins the November general election, Democrats are likely to launch an effort to keep him from being seated.

Many Democrats have disavowed Coleman, a dishwasher and community college student, over incendiary social media posts and his past behavior towards girls and women, which included his admission to allegations of revenge porn and online harassment of girls as a 14-year-old. Frownfelter’s campaign manager said Wednesday that he also sent her harassing messages for weeks this spring.

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“The pattern of alarming behavior reported and exhibited by Mr. Coleman proves he is unfit to serve in the Kansas Legislature,” Hiatt said in a statement. “The Party will in no way be helping Mr. Coleman’s candidacy or campaign.”

Coleman did not respond Wednesday to cellphone, Facebook and email messages seeking comment. He tweeted Tuesday that his fundraising account with ActBlue, used by Democrats and left-leaning groups to raise money online, had been disabled. He has called his past behavior targeting several middle-school girls that of a “sick and troubled 14-year-old boy” and said he’s grown.

ActBlue did not immediately respond to an email Wednesday about Coleman’s account, but he tweeted a statement from it saying, “We are unable to work with your campaign moving forward as you are out of alignment with ActBlue’s mission.”

Coleman has been running on a liberal platform that includes universal health coverage, eliminating college tuition, defunding the police and legalizing marijuana. Frownfelter, 69, owns a small business and was first elected to the Legislature in 2006.

“Remember this. Corporate democrats decide who gets to run or not. The elites have no care in the world for the people of my district who live at the poverty line,” Coleman said in a tweet responding to ActBlue’s action. “They don’t care if voters nominated me.”

Coleman said in a Facebook post in June that allegations against him of revenge porn, blackmail and online harassment of female middle-school students were true. He also came under fire for social media posts saying he would “laugh and giggle” if a former GOP state lawmaker died of COVID-19 and endorsing abortion up to the moment of birth. He later apologized.

He said Sunday he was dropping out of the race but reversed that decision Tuesday, citing encouragement from voters to keep running.

Brandie Armstrong, Frownfelter’s campaign manager and the local Democratic Party secretary, said she began receiving harassing messages from Coleman on Mother’s Day in May. She said the issue was the rules for posting on the local party’s Facebook page and that Coleman eventually was banned from it.

She said she asked Coleman on June 26 to stop sending her messages, which he did, but three days later, he came to her house. When she didn’t answer the door, she said, Coleman went to her neighbor and complained about her. She said Coleman also put a campaign sign in another neighbor’s yard, positioned so that she’d see it through a front window.

Faith Rivera, a community activist in Kansas City, Kansas, called Coleman “a relentless kid” and “horrible.” She said she first met him at a Democratic gathering in Topeka this winter and told him by text on June 6 that a liberal group she helped lead, Our Revolution Kansas City, would not be endorsing candidates in Kansas.

He texted back: “Gay” followed by “I literally out left Bernie Sanders.”

Rivera provided a screenshot of the exchange to The AP. She replied by chastising Coleman for using “gay” as a derisive term.

“That’s not politically correct,” she texted. “It’s offensive.”

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This story has been corrected to show that the Kansas Democratic Party’s statement came from its chairwoman, not its spokeswoman.

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

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