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A 19-year-old Democrat who admitted to viciously bullying girls in middle school, including blackmailing one for nude photos, had planned to drop out of his race for a Kansas state House seat. But on Tuesday, the candidate said he’ll remain in the race — because he wants to help women.
“I can never justify what I did to those women, and I do apologize to them from a place of remorse and shame, but words are no longer an acceptable response today. We need to provide safety to women in this society, which we do not currently do,” Aaron Coleman wrote in a statement released on Twitter. “I believe that we have a moral obligation to provide a life of dignity to our citizens and, I think, that with more self-respect, I would have been a better person to those women in middle school.”
“My whole platform revolves around this core principle,” added Coleman, whose platform supports Medicare for All and legalizing marijuana.
Coleman, a community college student and dishwasher, came under fire last week after he won his primary — even though he had already confessed in June that he was guilty of “bullying, revenge porn, and blackmail” as a middle schooler. One of the women who’s said she was abused by Coleman said that the experience drove her to attempt suicide.
On Sunday, Coleman announced in a pair of now-deleted tweets that he intended to leave the election.
“The progressive circular firing squad has done more to uphold the status quo than conservatives could have ever dreamed of,” he wrote in one tweet. He added in the second, “I regret my past actions and hope to continually learn from them as I grow into the person I hope to be.”
“My dad is in the hospital and I never expected this kind of attention. It’s too much. I need to focus on taking care of my family & surviving the COVID great depression.”
But in the following days and hours, Coleman started tweeting and retweeting about his dissatisfaction with the process and attention on him.
“The phone calls of those who have voted for me in the primary have started to come in, and I’m filled with regret,” he wrote. In another tweet, he wrote, “They begged me not to drop out. One lady told me she made mistakes too 41 years ago when she was 19.”
“My analysis is this is a defeat for democracy,” he added. “The voters have spoken, and continue to speak to me about staying in the race.”
Coleman also shared homophobic, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic messages that he’d received on Facebook. He wrote, “The difference is I stopped bullying in middle school, some people never grow up it seems…”
Kati Hampton told the New York Times that, when she was just 13 years old, Coleman had a nude photo of her and demanded that she send him more. When she refused, he distributed the photo.
“I don’t think somebody who’s done what he’s done needs to be in any position of power,” Hampton said.
Two women have also come forward and accused Coleman of verbally abusing them in middle school, the Kansas City Star reported earlier this month. One said he’d call her family’s home phone endlessly, while another said that Coleman was “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.”
That abuse led the woman to attempt suicide, she said.
Stan Frownfelter, the incumbent who lost to Coleman by just 14 votes, has promised to run as a write-in candidate, with the backing of Kansas Democratic leadership. No Republican had filed to run in the district.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741, or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org for more information.
Cover: Facebook/Aaron Coleman For Kansas