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Governor, other leaders call on Kansas state Rep. Aaron Coleman to resign after another arrest

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Aaron Coleman For Kansas
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Kansas Rep. Aaron Coleman has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Douglas County jail records show Aaron Coleman was booked early Saturday morning on a charge of driving under the influence. It’s the latest problem facing the 21-year-old Democrat who represents parts of Wyandotte County in the Kansas House.

Aaron Coleman, a representative in the Kansas House from Kansas City, was arrested again on Saturday morning, this time on suspicion of driving under the influence in Douglas County.

Coleman’s arrest comes less than a month after Overland Park police arrested Coleman following an incident with family members. The Johnson County District Attorney on Nov. 1 charged Coleman with misdemeanor domestic battery.

Coleman’s arrest on Saturday morning is the latest problem facing the 21-year-old Democrat who voters elected in 2020 despite several reports that described his troubling behavior as a teenager. Several House Democrats have called for Coleman to resign.

Douglas County records show Coleman was booked into jail at 1 a.m. on Saturday after a Kansas Highway Patrol officer arrested him on westbound Interstate 70 near Lawrence. Authorities charged Coleman with misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and released him on $250 bond.

On Friday evening, hours before his arrest, Coleman made posts on social media that included allegations of other public officials driving under the influence.

Coleman responded with a text message to KCUR on Tuesday, three days after his arrest.

“That arrest may not go anywhere,” Coleman said. “I was sober. The blood draw done will exonerate me.”

The Kansas Highway Patrol said in a statement on Tuesday that a trooper tried to stop Coleman as he was speeding on the Kansas Turnpike and failed to yield until he exited off the highway and came to a stop in a parking lot near the exit. The statement said the trooper notice “signs of possible impairment” and took Coleman into custody.

News of Coleman's latest trouble prompted a cascade of calls for him to leave office.

Gov. Laura Kelly said the Kansas Legislature should remove Coleman from office if he doesn't resign.

"Mr. Coleman’s most recent arrest is further evidence that he is not fit to serve in the Kansas House of Representatives and that his continued presence in the Legislature is a disservice to his constituents," Kelly said in a statement.

House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer repeated his call for Coleman to resign, saying in a statement Sunday evening that Coleman is in "dire need of help."

"For the sake of the state of Kansas, his constituents, and himself, he should resign and concentrate on getting the help he badly needs," Sawyer said in an email. "The stress of the legislature is not a healthy environment for someone in this mental state."

Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Democrat who serves in the Kansas House, also called for Coleman's resignation.

The Kansas City Star reported Sunday that House Speaker Ron Ryckman also said Coleman should step down.

Coleman pleaded not guilty earlier this month to the misdemeanor domestic battery charge. That stemmed from a confrontation between Coleman and his brother and grandfather in Overland Park.

Police records from that incident accuse Coleman of pushing, spitting on and hitting his brother and also threatening his grandfather.

In October, published reports said the Kansas Department of Labor barred Coleman from the agency’s offices in Topeka after he berated and intimidated a security officer while attempting to enter an area accessible only to employees.

Voters in 2020 elected Coleman, a progressive Democrat, to a Kansas House district that covers the Turner and Argentine neighborhoods in Kansas City, Kansas.

Coleman narrowly defeated incumbent Stan Frownfelter in the Democratic primary that year. Coleman’s 14-vote victory over Frownfelter occurred just as reports surfaced of troubling behavior by Coleman while he attended grade school.

One girl accused Coleman of bullying her. Another accused Coleman of obtaining a nude photograph of her and threatening to circulate it to others if she did not send more, a practice known as revenge porn.

Coleman said at the time he was sorry for his actions but had grown up since then. Then an ex-girlfriend said Coleman had physically and emotionally abused her during their short relationship when Coleman was 19.

Coleman faced two write-in candidates on the general election ballot but won overwhelmingly.

Coleman also made a reference to taking out a “hit” on Gov. Kelly, which several people took as a threat. Coleman later said he meant a “political hit.”

Kansas House Democrats have repudiated Coleman and several members have demanded his resignation.

A legislative complaint based on past behavior was made against Coleman earlier in the year, but was dismissed.

This story is part of a collaboration between KCUR and the Midwest Newsroom, an investigative journalism initiative including KCUR, IPR, Nebraska Public Media News, St. Louis Public Radio and NPR.

Updated: November 30, 2021 at 1:31 PM CST
This story was updated to include comments from Aaron Coleman and the Kansas Highway Patrol.
Steve Vockrodt is the investigative editor for the Midwest Newsroom.
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