Aaron Coleman, the controversial Wyandotte County teenager who gained national attention in his Democratic primary upset over an incumbent Kansas House member, announced Sunday he will exit the race.
Coleman, 19, had been accused of and admitted to instances of blackmailing a middle school classmate with nude photos as a 14-year-old, as well as other instances of bullying.
Uproar against him gained steam over the weekend in many national outlets, including the New York Times, as his past conduct, which also included derogatory remarks about Republicans during the COVID-19 pandemic, was condemned by Democratic Party leaders.
That culminated in an early-morning tweet from Coleman, who said he would exit the race for the 37th House District seat. Democratic and Republican candidates, including Rep. Stan Frownfelter (D-Kansas City), the incumbent whom Coleman defeated, said they would launch write-in campaigns during the general election.
"After talking with my family and my supporters, I’ve made the decision to withdraw as the Democratic nominee for HD 37 so I can focus on caring for my family," Coleman said in a tweet Sunday afternoon, confirming early indications he would drop out. "Now our party can pick a new nominee."
State law allows candidates to withdraw from the ballot in a slim handful of cases, including the nominee or a close family member falling ill or dying. Coleman indicated he would withdraw to support his father, who is in the hospital, meaning he would likely satisfy the statutory threshold.
Such a determination, however, will be made by the Kansas secretary of state. Coleman can’t officially petition to withdraw from the race until after the results are officially certified Friday.
Once Secretary of State Scott Schwab determines whether Coleman meets the standards required to drop off the ballot, local party officials will have 10 days to pick a new candidate and must swiftly notify the state.
"Time is of the essence as federal service ballots must go out 45 days prior to the election," Katie Koupal, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office, said in an email.
Coleman urged party precinct leaders to choose someone other than Frownfelter, whom he has painted as too conservative for the district.
"There are a lot of talented people in (House District 37)," Coleman tweeted. "We can do better than Rep. Coleman OR Rep. Frownfelter. Let me just leave it at that."
House Democratic leaders said they were relieved that Coleman was exiting the race, with House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, previously saying they would back Frownfelter’s write-in bid.
Coleman also ran as a write-in candidate for governor in 2018 on a liberal platform.