Democrats formally begin process to remove Aaron Coleman, who announces he is changing parties
House Democrats said Tuesday they had formally filed a complaint against Rep. Aaron Coleman, of Kansas City, Kan., to jumpstart the expulsion proceedings to boot the controversial lawmaker from office.
The move comes after Coleman, who unseated longtime incumbent Democrat Stan Frownfelter in the August partisan primary election, announced earlier in the day that he would change his registration from Democrat to independent.
House Democrats have refused to give Coleman committee assignments and have even taken the extraordinary step of denying him office space, something he has vocally opposed on Twitter.
That culminated in the party switch, which Coleman announced to the public Tuesday morning.
"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 that I was elected as a Kansas Democrat to represent my constituents," he said in a statement.
The move would take any decisions about committee assignments and office space out of the hands of House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, who has vocally opposed Coleman since the primary.
Instead, House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, would have jurisdiction on the matter.
Coleman's move "changes nothing," said Sawyer's chief-of-staff, Joseph Le.
Over a dozen legislators, including all House Democratic leadership, signed onto the complaint urging he be removed from his seat.
"Representative Coleman’s past and present behavior renders him unfit for office. His removal is further necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of legislators and Capitol staff," the complaint against Coleman read.
Ryckman now will form a special committee to investigate the complaint, although the time frame in which he will do so is unclear. The committee would be charged with recommending whether he be removed from his office, at which point a vote before the full House would be held.
Erik Turek, a spokesperson for Ryckman, said the House speaker and Coleman would speak later in the afternoon.
The process to remove a member from office is rare. It is believed this would be the first investigatory committee since 2015, when a complaint against Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City, Kan., was dismissed in relatively quick order.
Democrats have disavowed Coleman after the 20-year-old admitted before the primary to online bullying and revenge porn while in middle school. An ex-girlfriend later came forward alleging that Coleman abused her, both physically and verbally, while the pair dated in 2019 and that the harassment continued until his Kansas House bid in 2020.
Coleman has remained in hot water since winning the November general election, where he beat back a write-in campaign from Frownfelter.
He was the subject of a restraining order from Frownfelter's campaign manager, Brandie Armstrong, although the matter was settled and dropped by mutual agreement last week.
And legislators from both parties objected to Coleman saying a "hit" needed to be taken out on Gov. Laura Kelly for her reluctance to support progressive policies, like Medicare for All. Coleman said that he meant to say "political hit" and argued the social media post wasn't threatening.
In light of those most recent developments, a group of incoming female lawmakers called on Coleman to resign in December.
"We believe in second chances. We believe that people can change. However, actions in recent weeks, combined with his history of violence, continuously demonstrate that he is unfit to serve," Rep. Mari Lynn Poskin, D-Leawood, said in an open letter.
This story has been corrected to reflect that Rep. Valdenia Winn is from Kansas City, Kan.