2 Kansas lawmakers who faced legal issues ousted in primaries

photo by: John Hanna/AP

In this photo from Monday, May 3, 2021, Kansas state Rep. Mark Samsel, R-Wellsville, talks on his cellphone ahead of the House's daily session at the Statehouse in Topeka.

Two Kansas lawmakers who faced legal issues during their time in the Legislature have been soundly defeated in their bids for reelection.

Freshman Rep. Aaron Coleman, of Turner, lost a three-way race to Melissa Oropeza, of Kansas City, Kansas, in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. And Republican Rep. Mark Samsel, of Wellsville, who has served in the Legislature since 2019, was defeated by conservative Carrie Barth, of Baldwin City.

Coleman has been ensnared in controversy since running for election in 2020. He agreed in March to undergo mental health counseling and a domestic violence assessment to avoid prosecution on a misdemeanor domestic battery charge involving his brother.

Coleman had previously admitted to abuse of young women and girls before he was elected, including circulating revenge porn and slapping and choking an ex-girlfriend. Gov. Laura Kelly and other Democrats said Coleman should resign, and the House issued a written reprimand. Coleman also faced two traffic charges after he was arrested in November.

Coleman received only 321 votes, or 13.1%, while Oropeza won with 1,203 votes, 49.2%, and Faith Rivera received 923 votes, or 37.7% of the vote.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Coleman congratulated Oropeza and thanked his supporters. “I hope this decision is the best for everyone,” he wrote. Coleman did not respond to messages Wednesday seeking further comment.

Samsel, an attorney, was placed on a year of probation after he pleaded guilty in September to three misdemeanor charges of battery after he was accused of angry interactions with two students, ages 15 or 16, while he was working as a substitute teacher at the high school in his hometown of Wellsville.

Barth received 2,769 votes, or 63.4%, to Samsel’s 1,599, or 36.6%. Samsel did not return a message Wednesday seeking comment.

Videos shot by students on April 28 and provided by a parent showed Samsel talking about suicide, God and sex in a noisy classroom. He was accused of kicking a boy in the testicles. Samsel said he only “demonstrated a kick” for one boy who had disrupted class but did not kick him, according to a deputy’s affidavit.

Samsel said in a Facebook post that he was under extreme stress at the time, which caused him to have “an isolated episode of mania with psychotic features” in a classroom. He said he was undergoing mental health treatment and surrendered his state substitute teacher’s license.


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