‘Hit’ tweet against Kansas governor has Democrats seeking ouster of 20-year-old
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TOPEKA — A Democratic candidate who admitted to circulating revenge porn and was charged at the age of 14 with threatening to shoot a high school student has won a state House seat in Kansas, and party leaders promised Thursday to try to oust him after what they saw as a threat against the governor.
Aaron Coleman was the only candidate on the ballot in his Kansas City, Kan., district in Tuesday’s election, but the 20–year-old faced the veteran state lawmaker whom he defeated in the Democratic primary and a Republican candidate who ran as write-ins.
Coleman began identifying himself on Twitter as “Rep.-elect” and on Wednesday criticized Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly in tweets as a “Republican” unfit to serve because she doesn’t support Medicare for All or the Green New Deal plan to combat climate change and suggesting “radical progressives” will prevent her reelection in 2022. Coleman touted a liberal platform in defeating Democratic state Rep. Stan Frownfelter by 14 votes in the August primary.
A political operative provided The Associated Press with a screen shot of another tweet that was no longer online Thursday in which Coleman predicted that Kelly would face an “extremely bloody” Democratic primary in two years. The screen shot was provided anonymously because the operative was not authorized to speak about the race.
“I’m not playing around,” Coleman wrote in the tweet. “People will realize one day when I call a hit out on you it’s real.”
Kelly spokeswoman Lauren Fitzgerald responded to Coleman’s tweets by saying in an email: “Aaron Coleman is unfit to serve in the Legislature.”
Coleman acknowledged during an interview posting the tweet and then deleting it Wednesday, saying he’d intended to use the phrase “political hit,” adding, “Obviously I should have moved away from the word ‘hit.'”
“There are people out there who will intentionally try to misinterpret anything you say,” Coleman said. “It’s fine. I’m not worried about it. Really, at this point, nobody can really stop me.”
But Kansas House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat, described the tweet as “threatening the governor.”
Coleman’s social media post came less than a month after authorities said they foiled a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, another Democrat, in reaction to her handling of the coronavirus pandemic. An FBI agent testified in federal court that members of paramilitary groups also discussed kidnapping Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
Sawyer said he or other Democrats in the House will file a complaint against Coleman when he’s sworn in and work for the two-thirds vote in the House needed to remove Coleman from his seat. The state Democratic Party already had disowned Coleman in August, and state Chairwoman Vicki Hiatt publicly backed such an effort Thursday, with both she and Sawyer calling Coleman unfit to serve.
But Coleman said he’s consulted with a lawyer and believes he only can be removed from his seat for misconduct in office, not for actions before taking office in January.
“Until I break the public’s trust and I break my oath of office, you know, you cannot undo the results of democracy,” Coleman said.
Later, he added: “I’m going keep my head down and do my homework and try not to get any more headlines for a while.”
Unofficial election results showed 3,496 votes for Coleman and 2,013 total write-in votes. The local Board of Canvassers is scheduled to meet Nov. 16 to review provisional ballots cast by voters whose eligibility wasn’t certain.
Wyandotte County Election Commissioner Bruce Newby said it’s “very rare” for all write-in votes to go to a single candidate. Newby said he doesn’t have a countywide count of provisional ballots yet, but that there would almost certainly not be enough in Coleman’s district to change the result. About 3,000 ballots mailed to voters countywide had yet to arrive, but Newby said it’s likely that only several hundred will arrive by Friday’s deadline. Even if all of them arrived on time, he said, only a fraction would be for Coleman’s district.
“Quite honestly, there’s no hope there,” Newby said of overcoming Coleman’s victory.
Coleman was charged in May 2015 with a felony count of making a criminal threat but later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of harassment. An arrest report and investigative summary from the incident, obtained by AP through an open records request, said Coleman threatened to go to a girl’s high school, shoot her, and turn the gun on himself.
He acknowledged in a June post on Facebook that allegations of revenge porn and harassing middle school girls online were true but called them the actions of a “sick and troubled 14-year-old boy.” The state Democratic Party disowned Coleman in August when an ex-girlfriend accused him of being physically abusive to her in late December.