Last week, Aaron Coleman was declared the winner of a Democratic primary for a Kansas House seat. Coleman, a 19-year-old who cites Bernie Sanders as an inspiration and ran on a platform of defunding the police, free college, and single-payer, defeated a long-time incumbent by 14 votes. But after national outrage he withdrew on Sunday, blaming “feminism” and what he believed was a demand that elected officials be faultless, for his decision.
It isn’t that people want their representatives to be perfect — that’s impossible, and such a bar would, and has, stopped plenty of potential leaders from running at all. But Coleman’s history matters here: He has admitted to not just one, but several instances of bullying, cyber exploitation, and blackmail of multiple young girls when he was 14.
Shortly after his primary win, the Kansas City Star spoke to a number of Coleman’s victims, one of whom said she was driven to a suicide attempt after his unrelenting and cruel harassment. Another said that Coleman got a hold of one of her nudes and blackmailed her, saying that if she didn’t send him more, he would send it to all of her friends and family. She didn’t, and he made good on his threat. A third victim describes behavior by Coleman that appears to classify as stalking under Kansas state law. All of them have spoken about their retraumatization and their horror at the idea that their abuser could hold any form of power, much less elected power in office.