Rep. Coleman leaves Democratic Party

Rep. Aaron Coleman, 37th District, and other legislators were sworn in in small groups on Monday at the Kansas House. (From Kansas Legislature video)

State Rep. Aaron Coleman, 37th District, said Monday night he has left the Democratic Party.

Elected as a Democrat, Rep. Coleman was sworn into office Monday in Topeka, despite the party’s call for his resignation. At age 20, Coleman is the youngest person ever elected to the Kansas Legislature.

Rep. Coleman said Monday night he is switching to independent, without a party affiliation.

Coleman is facing a sort of hazing in the Kansas Legislature over abuse allegations. He believes he’s the only person elected to legislative office who has been denied office space. He is also now the only independent in the Kansas House or Senate.

The reason for his leaving the Democratic caucus and party is that “they are attempting to disenfranchise my constituents and voters,” he said.

Rep. Aaron Coleman, 37th District

Unlike all the other freshmen representatives, Rep. Coleman was not assigned an office. It is up to the party leaders to assign office space. Coleman also was not assigned to any committees by House Democrats, as were the other freshmen legislators. He also said he was not notified of Democratic caucus meetings.

He does have a desk on the floor of the House, he said, and he hopes the speaker will assign him office space in the coming days.

Coleman said that state statutes require that every representative be provided with an office, office supplies and materials.

Coleman has heard there might be an expulsion or ouster move against him, possibly on Tuesday, he said. If there is a complaint filed, a committee of three Democrats and three Republicans could be appointed to consider it. They could dismiss it, table it, make a recommendation to censure, or vote to expel. Coleman said it is possible that the leadership does not want to spend the time on a complaint about him, as it has so many other things to consider.

Rep. Coleman won a close primary contest over long-time Democratic legislator Stan Frownfelter after a lot of door-to-door campaigning in the Turner area of Kansas City, Kansas. Later, Coleman won the general election by a wide majority after a write-in campaign by two candidates did not succeed.

During the campaign, reports surfaced about alleged abuse of a girlfriend within the past year, and an alleged revenge porn incident as a middle schooler. Despite these allegations surfacing and stories being written about them, voters chose Coleman. He gained the confidence of voters by going door-to-door and listening to them.

He also used very questionable words to disagree with the governor on social media on the day after the election, “People will realize one day when I call a hit out on you it’s real.” The topic he was addressing was Medicare for all. Later Coleman said he didn’t mean it literally, and the language was a figurative way of saying he would be in opposition to the governor.

A group of seven Democratic freshmen women legislators on Dec. 21 called on Coleman to resign before the legislative session began, and the state Democratic Party also called on him to resign. But he didn’t.

None of the incidents occurred while he was in office, he said.

Despite the opposition from Democratic leaders and some legislators, a handful of other individual Republicans and Democrats talked to him Monday, he said, and some helped him find his way around. While they may not agree with him on everything, some are willing to work with him, he said.

Coleman is an admirer of Sen. Bernie Sanders and his policies, but said he is not in communication with him.

“Just like independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, I will not be a registered Democrat any more,” Rep. Coleman said Monday night.

Rep. Coleman said his next step will be to focus on legislation. He has sponsored two bills and is working on more, he said. One bill would raise the minimum wage to $17.25 over 10 years, and the other, Erin’s Law, would establish public school training and instruction standards to identify child sexual abuse.

Coleman has found some support from an area legislator who believes that the election results, the will of the people, should not be overturned, and that expulsion would be a bad precedent. Instead, the legislator said opponents should just wait until the next election and run a campaign. (See Reports surface that legislators will try to expel Coleman.)

Coleman thinks some of the opposition he faces might be because of his age.

He plans to continue part-time with college and work, he said. He will go to college during the fall semester, and to the Legislature in the spring semester, he added. He also will be looking at joining the National Guard, and he toured a base this past weekend. It’s a way for him to do public service in more ways than one, he said.

Rep. Coleman released this statement:

Statement from House District 37 Rep. Aaron Coleman on Unaffiliating with Democratic Leadership and Registering as an Independent

“In August – despite a budget of $3,700 compared to my opponent’s political war chest of $50,000 – I defeated the Democratic incumbent in the primary election and ran as a proud Kansas Democrat in the general election. On November 3, 2020, the good people of Kansas House District 37 with a 66% majority elected me to represent them in the Kansas Legislature.

“Since that time, the leadership of the Kansas House Democrats has done everything possible to deny the people of House District 37 their right to representation in the Kansas Legislature. The Democratic leadership has refused to assign me to any committees, refused to notify me of caucus meetings, refused to include me on the Kansas House Democrats’ email lists, refused to list me as an elected Democrat on the Kansas House Democrats website, and has refused to assign me a phone number and administrative staff at the State House. The Democratic leadership has even refused to assign me an office in the State Capitol, despite a statutory requirement that the State House maintain and provide permanent office space and facilities for elected representatives. It has been made clear to me that the Kansas Democratic leadership, despite presiding over a party with so few members that it cannot prevent the majority party from overriding any vetoed legislation, is not willing to respect the fact I was elected as a Kansas Democrat to represent my constituents.

“I am ready to get to work for the people of Kansas. I have already introduced legislation raising the minimum wage, and legislation establishing Erin’s law in the State of Kansas and plan to introduce much more legislation in the days to come. The path I pursue has broad support among lawmakers from both parties. In fact, rank and file Democrats and Republicans – including some elected members of the Kansas legislature – have made it clear to me that they do not support the Democratic leadership’s attempt to shut me out of the State House and deny the people of House District 37 proper representation.

“As a result of the Kansas House Democratic leadership’s shocking actions, I have notified the Kansas House Democrats that I am registering as Unaffiliated, and ask that the office of Legislative Administrative Services reflect my party affiliation as “Independent” effectively immediately. I am hopeful that the Speaker of the House is willing to provide me and my constituents the minimum courtesy that every other elected representative has, which at the very least should include an office at the State House, a telephone number, and access to administrative staff.“

In solidarity,

  • Rep. Aaron Coleman
(From Kansas Legislature video)

DA takes oath of office

Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark A. Dupree Sr. was sworn into office Monday at Memorial Hall, surrounded by his family. (Photo from district attorney’s social media page)
Assistant district attorneys also took the oath of office Monday at Memorial Hall. (Photo from district attorney’s social media page)

Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark A. Dupree Sr. took the oath of office for a second term today.

In a ceremony at Memorial Hall that was livestreamed on his Facebook page, Dupree was surrounded by his family, friends and co-workers. There were COVID-19 measures in place.

The oath of office was administered by his brother, Wyandotte County District Court Judge Timothy Dupree.

Dupree is known for some programs he initiated, including the conviction integrity unit and community integrity unit.

The district attorney said his office operates on the philosophy of being smart on crime. He mentioned several programs, such as the drug court, the behavioral health court, the veterans court, expanding the diversion program, and creating community groups such as the interfaith council.

The district attorney’s office partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice to take a deep dive into the office’s practices before he became district attorney, he said.

He also mentioned an expungement fair held in Wyandotte County, allowing citizens to get their records expunged in the hopes of becoming employed.

They have also received grant funding to expand victim impact work in the community, he said. An additional victim’s advocate has been hired so that more victims can be heard, he said. They are forming a victims’ liaison board to discuss what can be done to better support victims, he said.

Dupree’s spouse, Shanelle Dupree, talked about his supportiveness to his family and said he was guided by his relationship with Jesus. Shanelle Dupree was her husband’s campaign director.

Assistant district attorneys also were sworn in on Monday, with Dupree expressing his thanks and appreciation for their work.

Also participating in the program were Pastor Alvin Dupree Jr.; the Rev. Ricky Turner, pastor of Oak Ridge Baptist Church; and the Rev. Rick Behrens, pastor of Grandview Park Presbyterian Church, as well as vocal music performers.

The swearing-in ceremony is online at https://www.facebook.com/WYCODAOffice/videos/794203427834305.

Reports surface that legislators will try to expel Coleman

Rep.-elect Aaron Coleman

State Rep.-elect Aaron Coleman, D-37th Dist., says he has heard there are plans to swear him in on Monday, Jan. 11, then expel him from the Kansas House of Representatives.

Coleman, a 20-year-old supporter of Bernie Sanders issues, upset State Rep. Stan Frownfelter, a long-time Democrat lawmaker, in a very close primary election, and then Coleman won by a wide majority, 66 percent, in a write-in challenge at the general election in November.

Overturning his election would be a “slap in the face” to Wyandotte County voters, Coleman stated this week.

“They’re disenfranchising 20,000 people in Wyandotte County, who will have no representation,” Coleman said recently. He said Democrats were acting like Republicans who were not recognizing the national election results.

Coleman asked for his constituents in the 37th District to contact other legislators to let them know they support him.

During the campaign, allegations surfaced about Coleman’s past actions as a middle schooler involving an alleged revenge porn incident, and also involving Coleman’s actions in the past year involving alleged abuse of a girlfriend. During the campaign, he apologized for some of his past actions. Coleman has disputed other allegations, including one from Rep. Frownfelter’s campaign manager. Coleman said that he was just campaigning at the time when he talked to the campaign manager, who filed a restraining order against him.

Coleman picked up opposition from the Kansas Democratic Party and the governor after he made remarks on social media concerning the governor. “People will realize one day when I call a hit out on you it’s real,” Coleman said on social media, and he later said he did not mean it literally as a physical threat, but it meant he might organize political opposition to her.

The alleged incidents did not occur when he was in office, which is a key point in an expulsion effort, according to Coleman.

A Democratic House Committee appointment calendar was released on Thursday, Jan. 7, and it had no committee assignments for Coleman. It did have assignments for a group of seven freshmen women legislators who called for Coleman to resign on Dec. 21.

Coleman does have a page on the Kansas Legislature website, and it stated that he is supporting a bill to increase the minimum wage to $17.25, over a 10-year time period. He’s also listed as a supporter of a bill that would establish public school training and instruction standards for identifying child sexual abuse.

One of the group of new women legislators, Rep.-elect Mari-Lynn Poskin of Leawood, Kansas, today stated that she had no additional comments and that their original statement asking for Coleman’s resignation still stands.

“Actions in recent weeks, combined with his history of violence, continuously demonstrate that he is unfit to serve,” Poskin stated in the earlier news release in December.

State Sen. Pat Pettey, D-6th Dist., stated on Thursday, “I don’t find Aaron Coleman trustworthy. He had ample opportunity since the primary election to show that he was interested in focusing on preparing to be a Democrat House member. He has done exactly the opposite. The House will follow the process that is available to allow him to be seated but he is the only one who can prove that he wants to learn and represent the 37th district.”

Sen. Pettey represents some of the same area of Wyandotte County as the 37th District, and part of that 37th District also is represented by Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist.

Sen. Haley said he has asked the Kansas attorney general for an informal opinion on whether Coleman could be expelled, or what could be done procedurally. He also contacted the Kansas secretary of state’s office, which he said referred him to the attorney general’s office.

As Sen. Haley reads the rules, a legislator would have to have done something while in office for him to be expelled, and Coleman is not yet in office.

“I made no secret about it, I don’t think procedurally this is the way to go,” Sen. Haley said. “If it can be done legally, it should not be done legally.”

“This is the slippery slope, as far as I’m concerned,” Sen. Haley said.

If a duly elected legislator who has committed no offense during the course of legislative service, or even in the days that lead up post-election to legislative service, would be called before a legislative tribunal with the intent to oust that legislator, it would be a very dangerous, slippery slope, Sen. Haley said.

If that could happen, then any legislator could be called up on any allegation that occurred prior to the election and asked to be removed from office, he said.

“What’s to prevent this from happening again and again and again, if the precedent is set?” Sen. Haley asked.

He said if Coleman were removed from office next week, it would be similar to not accepting the will of a free and independent electorate, “like the Trump supporters are doing today,” and suggesting that the opinion of a distinct minority should override the will of a voting majority.

“Is this going to be the new normal?” Sen. Haley asked.

Sen. Haley said he does not believe in this expulsion process at all and that the best time to address the issues raised by those who feel Coleman should not serve would be in a subsequent election.

Rep.-elect Coleman issued this op-ed statement on Monday of this week:

“My name is Aaron Coleman, and I’m proud to have been elected to serve in the Kansas House of Representatives by the voters of District 37 in Wyandotte County. I defeated longtime incumbent Stan Frownfelter twice, first in the primary and then in the general, when he spent $50,000 (compared to my $5,000) on a write-in campaign.

“As a 20-year-old white Jewish man, I was able to earn the trust of the voters in my majority-minority district. My victory was resounding, with 66 percent of the vote in the general.

“Now, Tom Sawyer and Kansas Democratic House leadership are threatening to overturn the election by seeking to expel me on January 11, soon after I am sworn in. If 2/3 of House members vote for expulsion, that is allowing outsider politicians to override the will of the voters of District 37. This would be unprecedented and a slap in the face to the people of Wyandotte County.

“The grounds for the complaint, I am told (no one from the party leadership has communicated with me) are two-fold:

“1) An unprofessional and metaphoric tweet I made about “calling out a hit” on Governor Kelly, meaning mobilizing opposition to her. No serious person would think I was threatening her life, and it is deeply dishonest to pretend otherwise. I have apologized for my inappropriate word choice.

“2) Rep. Frownfelter’s campaign manager filed a restraining order against me, claiming that I had visited her home twice and threatened her and that I tried to get her evicted. I have denied these false claims. The only time I was at her home was when I was campaigning door to door.

“I have broken no laws and been charged with no crimes. I have done nothing that rises to the extreme and anti-Democratic remedy of removing the people’s chosen representative. That would be a slap in the face to the Wyandotte County voters who elected me because they want Medicaid expanded to all Kansans, a higher minimum wage, no sales tax on food, legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana, and the right of men and women to make decisions about their own bodies.

“If my constituents vote me out in 2022, that is how democracy works. For my (soon to be) colleagues in the House to, instead, expel me for alleged misconduct that I have disputed and that did not occur while I was in office violates every notion of fairness. At the minimum, I deserve a chance to answer any complaint. For Democrats who condemn attempts to overturn the election of Joe Biden, seeking my removal is hypocritical as well as unjust.

“The people of Wyandotte County and Kansans deserve better.”

See previous story at http://www.wyandottedaily.com/women-legislators-call-for-colemans-resignation/.