by Mary Rupert
Aaron Coleman, 19, the Democratic nominee for state representative, 37th District, said on Sunday that he will withdraw from the election.
Coleman said in an interview on Sunday that he was withdrawing because his father is ill and has been hospitalized for the past 10 days. He said he is planning to submit a letter by Sept. 1 to the Kansas secretary of state withdrawing from the contest because of medical hardship.
“For me and my family, I have no choice but to use medical hardship to take my name off the ballot and allow the Democratic precinct people to choose the next nominee,” Coleman said.
He said this past year has been very hard on his family; he lost his brother about a year and a week ago.
Coleman upset veteran legislator, Rep. Stan Frownfelter, in the Democratic primary for the 37th District on Aug. 4, ahead by one vote on election night and then ahead by 14 votes after the voter canvass on Monday, Aug. 17. Frownfelter said last week he will run as a write-in candidate. Also announced as a write-in candidate was Republican Kristina Smith.
Last-minute allegations surfaced during the primary campaign that Coleman had engaged in revenge porn more than five years ago when he was in middle school. Coleman confirmed it to reporters, and said he had changed since then.
Coleman’s story took on a life of its own, and the news of his election circulated internationally. His candidacy was widely commented upon on social media, and some government officials in his party commented that he wasn’t fit for office.
“I was not expecting this kind of attention,” Coleman said Sunday. “My goal was to serve my community, and it was just too much for me.”
Shortly after he was elected, Coleman said he was surprised and hadn’t expected to win.
Coleman said he had talked with Democratic Party leaders during the past two or three weeks who made it clear the only way it would all go away was if he made the right decision and just got off the ballot.
He also has received threats from others during the campaign, he said.
“Over the course of the campaign I have received many threats,” Coleman said. People had told him to kill himself or said that people will help him do it, he said.
“This is too much for a 19-year-old,” Coleman said.
He said he was glad to step back from politics over the next several months and focus on his family.
Coleman said he is planning to go back to college next week, taking online courses. His goal remains to try to get into the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Program after he gets his associate degree, and to go into the military service as a career, he said.
“I’ve learned that I need to be more gracious and more humble,” he said. “I’ve learned people don’t change overnight; people don’t change just in five years. I have to continuously work on myself and work on the person I want to be.”
Coleman earlier said he won election because he went door-to-door in the 37th District, listening to voters’ concerns. His experience with that taught him that he doesn’t have to be the most intelligent or richest person to win, but just put time and energy into it, he said.
Coleman said it’s his opinion that Rep. Frownfelter had the wrong values for the district. Coleman is a progressive who favors pro-choice and pro-environment issues.
“I’m hopeful the precinct people will make the right decision and choose somebody who represents the Democratic primary voters,” he said.
Coleman sent out an email earlier on Sunday:
“Leaving the race
“After talking it over with my family and my supporters I have made the difficult decision to withdraw my name from the ballot as the Democratic nominee for House District 37. My father was recently hospitalized and in combination with the recent developments in the race it has put a significant strain on my family. Their wellbeing is too important to me to continue as the nominee.
“Rather than waiting, I’m doing this now so that the Democratic Party can find a suitable replacement. Stan Frownfelter does not fight for the values of House District 37. The voters already rejected him once. Now the Democratic Party can choose someone better as their nominee.
“It was an honor to be chosen as the Democratic Party’s nominee and I am deeply grateful to everyone who supported my campaign. We proved that Kansas Democrats are progressive Democrats and change is possible when you fight for it. Thank you for being a part of that fight.”