Early-morning DUI arrest adds to troubles for Kansas lawmaker accused of family violence

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  • Aaron Coleman
    American politician

Kansas Rep. Aaron Coleman was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence Saturday morning, his second arrest in less than a month.

The Kansas Highway Patrol arrested Coleman, a Kansas City, Kansas, Democrat, at 1 a.m. Saturday at mile marker 203 on westbound Interstate 70, according to Douglas County jail records.

Coleman, who was out on bond from an arrest last month, was booked into the Douglas County Jail and released on $250 bond Saturday at 1:37 p.m.

This appears to be Coleman’s first DUI arrest. Under Kansas Law, Coleman could face no less than 48 consecutive hours of imprisonment or 100 hours of public service at the court’s discretion.

The arrest, the latest in a pattern of alleged erratic or abusive behavior by the 21-year-old lawmaker, prompted new calls for his resignation.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman for the first time publicly told Coleman to step down Sunday.

“Mr. Coleman’s actions continue to be a detriment to himself and others, and most importantly to the people who elected him to represent them,” Ryckman, an Olathe Republican, said in a text message.

“I hope constituents recognize this and that Mr. Coleman will step down to get the services he needs.”

Ryckman had previously voiced concern for Coleman’s well being and behavior but stopped short of asking for his resignation even as House Democrats have sought his ouster.

“He should resign and concentrate on getting the help he so badly needs,” House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, A Wichita Democrat said in a statement. “The stress of the legislature is not a healthy environment for someone in this mental state.”

Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, said Sunday that the Legislature should remove Coleman from office if he does not resign on his own.

“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.

Coleman was arrested last month and charged with misdemeanor battery in Johnson County District Court for allegedly spitting on, hitting and pushing his brother before threatening to attack his grandfather. He is scheduled for a diversion hearing next month, indicating he may reach a deal with prosecutors rather than face trial.

He was ordered by a Johnson County judge to undergo a mental health evaluation and said on Twitter last week he was attending therapy. A DUI would be a violation of his bond, which prohibited consumption of alcohol or drugs.

Hours before his Douglas County arrest, Coleman attacked fellow Democratic members of the Kansas House of Representatives on Twitter. As part of a thread that started with critiques of the Johnson County Jail, Coleman called for Sawyer and Rep. Brandon Woodard to be expelled. He also criticized Woodard and Rep. Vic Miller, a Topeka Democrat, for previous DUI convictions. Miller was arrested for a DUI in 2019 while he was serving in the Senate. Woodard was arrested for two DUI’s before he was elected.

Coleman did not immediately respond to The Star’s request for comment Sunday night.

The domestic battery arrest renewed calls for Coleman to resign and a coalition of female lawmakers pledged to attempt to oust him if he remains in office.

The lawmaker has been accused multiple times of inappropriate behavior, including by a former girlfriend who said he slapped and choked her.

The freshman lawmaker faced a legislative inquiry earlier this year over allegations of inappropriate behavior, but the investigating committee ultimately issued only an informal letter of warning. At the time, lawmakers involved in the inquiry noted that the alleged behavior had occurred before he was elected.

His arrest last month renewed calls for a new inquiry and the expulsion of the lawmaker; this time, for action that occurred after he had already taken office.

Coleman broke into Kansas politics in 2020 with an upset primary defeat of Rep. Stan Frownfelter in Kansas City, Kansas. Allegations of abusive behavior were made public, but Coleman, running in a heavily Democratic district, faced no Republican opponent on the ballot.

Another Democrat, Faith Rivera, has already announced plans to challenge Coleman for his seat next year.

Earlier in October, the Kansas Department of Labor warned Coleman to stay away from its Topeka headquarters after the agency said he repeatedly tried to gain access to employee-only parts of the building.

Before Coleman took office in early 2021, seven incoming Democratic legislators — all women — called on him to resign. They demanded Coleman face “accountability for violence against women.”

The same lawmakers and House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer renewed their calls for Coleman’s resignation after his arrest.

Coleman has previously been under a temporary order not to communicate with the former campaign manager of a political opponent. She said Coleman sent her harassing messages, came to her home twice and tried to get her evicted. A former staff member in Sawyer’s office has also described threats Coleman made against her and that he had called her and threatened physical violence against Sawyer before the election.

Coleman has previously tweeted that Gov. Laura Kelly would face an “extremely bloody” Democratic primary. “People will realize one day when I call a hit out on you it’s real,” he tweeted. He later deleted the tweet.

Coleman is the third Kansas legislator to face allegations of criminal conduct this year. Rep. Mark Samsel, a Wellsville Republican, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after he allegedly kicked a student in the groin while substitute teaching. And Sen. Gene Suellentrop, a Wichita Republican, drove the wrong way down Interstate 70 in Topeka while drunk. He pleaded guilty in October to driving under the influence and reckless driving.

All three remain in office.

The Star’s Jonathan Shorman contributed to this report.