Aaron Coleman speaks in a campaign video.

Meet the “Progressive” Teen Kansas House Candidate With a History of Bullying, Blackmail, & Revenge Porn

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Earlier this month, Aaron Coleman unseated seven-term Kansas State Representative Stan Frownfelter from his Kansas City position. Coleman, who is only 19 years old and ran on a progressive platform, won by just 14 votes. And he did so despite having already admitted to a history of bullying, blackmail, and revenge porn.

When Coleman was in middle school, he bullied girls online. One of those young women, now 18, told the Kansas City Star that she attempted suicide due to Coleman’s persistent attacks. She says she remembers him “calling me fat, telling me to kill myself, like I’m never going to find anyone, like I’m worthless, just downgrading me every day.”

Another woman says Coleman blackmailed her when she was in middle school after somehow obtaining a nude picture of her. He demanded she give him more nudes or he threatened to release the one he already had. She refused, and he sent the picture to her friends and family–”everyone I knew,” she says.

Coleman admitted to these accusations of abuse and more, saying he’s “grown up a great deal since then.” But it’s not clear what he thinks he’s done to demonstrate that growth.

A number of major outlets from the KC Star to the New York Times had reported on Coleman’s admissions of abuse but it looks like his undoing might have been his decision to grant an interview to The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald’s profile of Coleman is all sorts of gross. First, it lowers Coleman’s age at the time of these incidents by multiple years. Coleman himself has said that he was 14 at the time of the bullying and extortion. Greenwald says he was 12, presumably in an attempt to make his actions more defensible. And defend them he does.

Greenwald justifies Coleman’s actions through his age and the fact that he grew up poor, as if sexism, harassment, and blackmail are both commonplace as well as class issues. He listed a number of other prominent Democrats who have also done terrible things, insisting that we must have “consistently applied principles”–not as a way to indicate we should hold these other men accountable for their actions, but that we need to let Coleman’s go.

The interview launched a whole lot of exhausting discourse online about whether or not a person should be held accountable for things they did when they were 12. But when that person was actually 14, when that was only five years ago, and when they have done nothing to signify they have actually changed or grown in any way, it seems the answer is yes.

Not only has Coleman not actively demonstrated change, but in the aftermath of the Intercept interview, he’s made it exceptionally clear that he does not have the maturity or the respect for women necessary to serve in public office.

Just a few days after the interview was published online, Coleman announced he would be withdrawing from the race. Was that so he could take some time to focus on himself and his actions and actually try to facilitate his own growth as a person? Nope, it was because of cancel culture and bad feminists.

Coleman announced his plans to resign in a now-deleted tweet posted Sunday. “In all seriousness, feminism hasn’t got a chance so long as Donatism remains on the march,” he wrote, in what seems to be a very 4chan-esque allusion to political purity tests. “The progressive circular firing squad has done more to uphold the status quo than conservatives could have ever dreamed of.”

Although, weirdly, it seems that that tweet was plagiarized from a comment on his Facebook page.

Coleman’s biggest argument against his opponent is Frownfelter’s status as an anti-abortion Democrat. But in advocating for reproductive rights, Coleman has steamrolled all other issues women might have with him. On Twitter, the posts he’s chosen to retweet paint a picture of himself as a champion for women, as if Kansas women need him and should be automatically grateful for his desire to serve them. “If you’re a woman of childbearing age, it’s fingernail-biting time,” reads a patronizing post he retweeted from a male supporter.

It’s also very clear that while presenting himself as the savior of abortion rights, he doesn’t actually understand anything about them. In voicing his support for abortion access, he’s parroted rightwing anti-abortion language about supporting abortion up to the moment of birth, which, as Rachel Sweet, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes Regional Director of Public Policy and Organizing, said a statement issued Tuesday, is “not how medicine works.”

“Throughout the course of his campaign, we have seen Aaron Coleman use his support for reproductive rights to distract from credible reports that he harassed, bullied, and distributed revenge porn of middle-school-aged girls,” that statement reads.

Sweet goes on to say:

Calling your opponent a misogynist does not make you an ally to women. Being a pro-woman candidate means more than just being pro-choice. You cannot honestly say that you support a woman’s right to bodily autonomy when you use revenge porn to humiliate, belittle, coerce, and control women.

If Coleman doesn’t want to be held accountable for the worst thing he’s admitted to having done, he needs to demonstrate actual change, not talk over women to tell them what a big mistake they’re making by holding him to account.

Unfortunately, Coleman quickly reversed his decision to withdraw from the Kansas race. Today, he issued another statement saying he would remain on the ballot. Frownfelter has indicated he might launch a write-in campaign to remain in the race as well. And while I have trouble rooting for someone with such a mixed voting record on abortion, the fact that only about 1700 people voted in the primary certainly does indicate that with enough organizing, Coleman’s election isn’t a sure thing yet.

(image: Aaron Coleman, YouTube)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.