• Thu. Nov 26th, 2020

Kansas Candidate Who Admitted to Revenge Porn Plans to Withdraw

The 19-year-old candidate for the Kansas Legislature who admitted to sending revenge porn and bullying girls online when he was in middle school plans to withdraw as the Democratic nominee, he announced on Sunday.

The candidate, Aaron Coleman, said on Twitter that he had decided to withdraw from the race to “focus on taking care of my family & surviving the COVID Great Depression.” He added that his father was in the hospital.

“I regret my past actions and hope to continually learn from them as I grow into the person I hope to be,” he said.

Mr. Coleman did not immediately respond to messages left by phone and through Twitter.

Last week Mr. Coleman, a dishwasher and community college student, defeated a seven-year incumbent, Stan Frownfelter, by 14 votes in the Democratic primary for the 37th District seat in the Kansas House of Representatives. The final count was 823 to 809.

It’s difficult to remove a name from a ballot, said Heather Scanlon, the chief of staff to the House minority leader, Tom Sawyer of Wichita, a Democrat.

According to Kansas law, a name can be removed from the ballot if the nominee or the nominee’s family experienced severe medical hardship, or if the nominee moved out of the state or died.

To have his name removed, Mr. Coleman would need to file a petition with the secretary of state before Sept. 1 stating the reasons for the withdrawal. If granted, the district Democratic Party committee would choose a replacement.

“We don’t know for sure if they’re going to nominate Stan Frownfelter, the incumbent, or exactly what will happen yet,” Ms. Scanlon said. “But whoever they do nominate is who is on the actual ballot.”

Mr. Coleman’s candidacy caused alarm among members of the Kansas Democratic Party after he said accusations from when he was in middle school — including repeated harassment of one girl over her physical appearance that caused her to attempt suicide — were “accurate.”

Another woman, Kati Hampton, now 20, of Kansas City, Kan., said Mr. Coleman distributed a nude photo of her when she was 13 after she refused to send him more. She said on Sunday that she was “happy he dropped out.”

“I don’t think somebody who’s done what he’s done needs to be in any position of power,” she said.

Mr. Coleman, who had campaigned on a progressive platform of creating a single-payer health care system, fighting climate change and legalizing cannabis, also made controversial comments during his campaign, including that he would “giggle” if a former Republican legislator died of the coronavirus. Democratic leaders feared his behavior would hurt the party’s chances in other competitive elections.

Ms. Scanlon said Mr. Coleman had approached the Democratic Party for help in recusing himself from the ballot and was “ready to cooperate.”

Mr. Coleman did not have a Republican opponent in the general election, but Mr. Frownfelter announced after the primary election that he would continue campaigning as a write-in candidate. He has been backed by major voices in the Democratic Party in Kansas, including Gov. Laura Kelly, who said Mr. Coleman was unfit for office. A Republican candidate, Kristina Smith, has also announced a write-in campaign.

If Mr. Coleman’s name is not removed from the ballot, and if wins, he will have to be sworn in and immediately resign, which will prompt the same committee process, Ms. Scanlon said. Resignations before a candidate takes office are uncommon, she said.

“Given the uproar that this has all instigated, I think all Kansas Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief,” she said. “We all think he’s doing the right thing. It just makes everything quite a bit easier, assuming of course we can get him off of the ballot prior to the election.”

Brandie Armstrong, a spokeswoman for Mr. Frownfelter, said that he had planned to continue campaigning on Monday before he heard about Mr. Coleman’s decision to withdraw. “At this point in time, we’re just going to wait and see how all this shakes out,” she said.