Running for the Kansas House 37th District seat, Coleman defeated seven-term incumbent Stan Frownfelter by 14 votes. He received 823 votes while Frownfelter received 809, according to the Kansas City Star.
Frownfelter announced the following day that he would launch a write-in campaign in the general election in November against Coleman, as an effort to keep his seat in the state House, the New York Times reported. Republican Kristina Smith is also planning to run as a write-in candidate against Coleman, according to KCTV5.
Coleman told the Kansas City Star that he didn’t expect himself to win. “I’m just as shocked as anybody at the results,” he said.
Democratic state leaders have expressed concerns about Coleman’s controversial past and his ability to run the office. “Aaron Coleman is not fit to serve in the Legislature,” Lauren Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, told the New York Times. Wichita Democrat and House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer said in a statement that Coleman “does not represent the values of House Democrats,” according to the Kansas City Star.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Coleman Is a Community College Student & Hopes to Transfer to a Four-Year University
Coleman was born at Providence Medical Center in Kansas City on September 20, 2000, and has lived in the neighborhood of Turner his entire life. His campaign website says he “has a deep connection to Wyandotte and is proud to be a fourth-generation Dotte.”
He went to Turner Elementary School, but opted to online homeschool during middle school. He later left Turner and attended Shawnee Mission West Highschool in Johnson County. “If you go to a school in Dotte, you are having opportunities stolen from you,” Coleman said on his website, arguing that the education quality in Wyandotte County was not ideal.
Nevertheless, Coleman still considers Turner his home and says people there are like his family, according to his website.
Coleman is a current student at Johnson County Community College, where he studies liberal arts. He hopes to transfer to the University of Kansas or Kansas State University. He also works as a dishwasher and says this experience helps him better represent the working class in Kansas.
2. Coleman’s Dad Is a Disabled Veteran & His Family Depends on His Mom’s Income
Coleman’s father is permanently disabled due to his time in service. He served during the Gulf War as a technician for the Air Force and was discharged honorably, according to Coleman’s website. He said his father’s sacrifice has taught him “what it means to give more than you receive.”
Coleman, who hopes to transfer to the University of Kansas, also seeks to join the Air Force. The university has an Air Force ROTC program that would pay for his college education if he signs up to be an officer for six years, according to his website. If admitted to the program, Coleman would only seek reelection once and serve four years as a State Representative.
Due to his father’s disability, Coleman’s family largely depends on his mother’s income. Despite having a master’s degree in education, Coleman’s mother has had a hard time finding work that “matches her qualifications,” said the campaign website. She now works at a hotel front desk and earns far less than a teacher.
Coleman echos his mother’s experience when he addresses education problems in the state.
With teachers teaching ever increasing class sizes, the total number of teachers needed is reduced. It’s sad that the state of Kansas has decided the best policy for our children is to put teachers like Aaron’s mother out of the teaching business.
Coleman thinks Kansas “must implement restrictions on the number of students a teacher can teach so teachers like his mom may find employment in this field within Kansas, instead of leaving the state to teach elsewhere.”
3. Coleman Vows to “Reduce Human Suffering”
Coleman advocated for universal health care, arguing that “Medicare-for-All is the best solution to address these concerns in America.” His campaign website points out that the privatized healthcare system should be replaced and human lives should be placed above profits.
He also calls for the legalization of cannabis, saying that it will create “thousands of high paying jobs” and generate $2 billion in tax revenue every ten years, which could be used in education and infrastructures.
Coleman raised $3,685 for his campaign, including $1,500 from his loans and another $975 from family members, according to the Kansas City Star.
Coleman told the Kansas City Star that he would continue his campaign this fall. “I enjoy very much any time the opportunity to meet people in my district,” he said. “I look very much to the opportunity this fall to knock on more doors than I have ever knocked before.”
4. Coleman Ran For Kansas Governor As An Independent in 2018
In 2018, Coleman ran for governor as an independent when he was only 17 years old, advocating against wars. On his campaign website back then, he said he remembered the “American war machine very closely” as he grew up in the 9/11 era.
“Democrats and Republicans are in kahoots with big money and the war machine.
That is why I am proud to declare my candidacy for Governor of Kansas as a(n) independent. Both parties need major reform. We need peace.”
Coleman said a childhood accident inspired him to run for this office. His campaign website for the House seat said he was put in a closet for three years during elementary school and “was affected neurologically.” Coleman called it “severe trauma” and said he was “relieved from school” because of that.
“I fought through my condition to complete my GED and excelled academically,” he said. “That’s why I ran for Governor in 2018, because I’m lucky to be alive, and I don’t want any child to suffer as I did.”
However, Doug Powers, assistant superintendent of the Turner school district, rebutted Coleman’s claim that he suffered solitary confinement. Powers told AP that the school district “does not put kids in closets.”
There were other teenagers running for governor as well, but none of their bid for office was successful, the Kansas City Star reported. After that, Kansas legislators passed a law that requires candidates running for governor to be at least 25 years old, according to Kansas Legislative Research Department.
5. Coleman’s Controversial Past Has Drawn Criticism From Both Parties
He blackmailed a young woman with her nudity photo and threatened to send it to her family and friends if she didn’t send him more. When she didn’t send him more pictures, Coleman really distributed it to “everyone” the woman knew, the Kansas City Star reported.
He was also accused of verbally insulting another young woman when she was in sixth grade, which led to her suicide attempt. “I was just in disbelief that another man that doesn’t respect women is in power,” she told the Kansas City Star.
A third woman said Coleman harassed her for months and kept calling her family’s home phone.
Coleman has apologized for mistreating women, according to the Kansas City Star.
John, I’m going to laugh and giggle when you get COVID and die. At least we can say you died doing what you love. Ask your buddy Herman Cain how it worked out for him.
He also made some controversial comments during his campaign. In a now-deleted Facebook post, he made inappropriate comments about former presidential candidate Herman Cain‘s death and said he would “laugh and giggle” if former state Representative John Whitmer contracted the virus and died, according to Kansas Reflector. Cain refused to wear a mask in a rally for President Trump in his Oklahoma rally and contracted the coronavirus.
“Aaron Coleman is clearly unfit to serve in the Kansas Legislature,” Shannon Golden, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said in an email to the Kansas City Star. “His previous statements and actions are extremely disgusting and someone who holds women and human life in such contempt should have no place in public office. The Kansas Democratic Party’s silence on Aaron Coleman is disturbing.”
“I disavow any comments that were made by the young man,” Representative Tom Burroughs, a Kansas City Democrat, told the Kansas City Star. “That is not my type of Democrat.”
“If people want to focus on the opera show, they can do that,” Coleman told the New York Times in response to his critics. “But I’m focusing on the issues affecting voters and working-class Kansans.”